Wednesday, December 29, 2021
Sunday, December 26, 2021
A poll for the Observer found that more than six out of 10 voters believe Brexit has either gone badly or worse than they expected.
The Opinium survey also found that 42% of people who voted Leave in 2016 had a negative view of how Brexit had turned out so far.
26% of Leave supporters said it had gone worse than they expected, while 16% of those who voted for Brexit said they had expected it to go badly and had been proved right.
Among people who voted Remain, 86% said it had gone badly or worse than they expected. Overall, just 14% of all voters said Brexit had gone better than expected.
If we were asked, Pam and I would have been amongst the six out of ten. These are just three ways we have personally been affected.
1. Straight after the result of the referendum we saw a dramatic fall in the exchange rate meaning we were were getting less Euros from our UK pensions. Although it has recovered a little, it is still no where near the previous rate of 1.34 Euros to the pound.
2. Receiving goods from the UK, either from family or suppliers has become fraught and expensive. Last week, I had to pay almost 30 Euros in customs charges for Christmas presents valued at £80. Two parcels of presents, that were posted weeks ago, still have not arrived.
Some suppliers I have contacted refused to send me goods because of the elaborate paperwork and the customs duty I would have to pay at this end.
3. UK banks have either closed or are threatening to close accounts held with them by those who do not have a UK address. We rely upon having a UK account to pay for our trips to the UK and to make payments to our family e.g. monthly payments to our grandchildren's savings accounts.
Friday, December 24, 2021
Message from the Mayor
Christmas is fast approaching which is why, from the Bigastro City Council, we want to offer our sincere wishes that we can share our feelings of love, peace and happiness, without forgetting the necessary precaution that the times demand.
With the illusion of a child that we carry inside, we receive Christmas with hope and the desire to reconnect with our loved ones in an atmosphere of peace and brotherhood.
We say goodbye to a year lived with concern about the evolution of the pandemic and its effects on our daily lives, and we receive the new one with the hope of recovering normality that will bring us security, prosperity and happiness.
On behalf of my colleagues, municipal staff and myself, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous 2022 full of happiness and joy.
Mrs. Teresa María Belmonte Sánchez
Mayor of Bigastro
Thursday, December 23, 2021
Masks back in the streets
The Spanish Government will be holding a special Cabinet meeting today to bring back mandatory face mask wearing in outdoor settings. It is likely to be a measure that takes effect from Christmas Eve.
The exception to this rule is when citizens are in natural spaces or when in the company of members of their family unit. They will also not be necessary if social distancing is observed.
Experts suggest that wearing face masks in outdoor settings is merely cosmetic and further restrictions will be needed soon.
Spain has been breaking its own records of new coronavirus cases, and reported 60,041 new infections on Wednesday The 14-day incidence currently stands at 784 cases per 100,000 inhabitants – 78% up on a week ago.
Tuesday, December 21, 2021
COVID passports here
The fourteen-day cumulative incidence of COVID in the Valencian Community is now at the extreme risk level of contagion, exceeding 500 cases per one hundred thousand inhabitants
The president of the Generalitat, Ximo Puig, announced on Monday that, in the Valencian Community, the COVID passport or a PCR test will be required to access all bars and restaurants (regardless of capacity), cinemas, circuses, festive venues and any place where you can drink and eat, as well as gyms, indoor pools and sports centers. This extension is pending the approval of the TSJCV and as soon as it is published in the DOGV it will be in force until January 31.
The gift of Christmas
Last year, when the parcel of presents from the family arrived, I had to pay over 30 Euros of custom charges to the UPS delivery man.
This year, my daughters chose to use the Post Office rather than a courier because we'd received parcels by post without any custom charge.
However, it turned out to be Parcel Force who were handling the package. My eldest daughter spent well over an hour sorting the customs declaration out and was assured by Parcel Force that there would be no custom charges because the goods had been described as "personal belongings" rather than "gifts" - WRONG!
Two parcels were dispatched and one of them arrived at our gate yesterday.
The driver from Correos told me there was a 29 Euro and some cents charge to pay to customs. In order to produce a receipt he needed my email address which he typed into his phone. Unfortunately, it did not work (possibly because of a bad mobile signal) and so the parcel had to be taken back to the office from where I can collect it today. According to tracking, the second parcel is still on its way.
My feeling is that the issue is with VAT or IVA as it is called in Spain but i could be wrong.
On the customs declaration form there was no proof that VAT was paid on the goods in England. Indeed, both the sender and I are recorded on the form as being NOT registered for VAT.
If we had bought the goods ourselves to be imported to Spain, then VAT would not have been charged by the sellers. Instead, VAT would be charged in Spain at the appropriate rate. On top of VAT, there are also custom charges for handling the goods. I should know more when I see the invoice with the parcel.
The nonsense is that, VAT was paid in England on the goods even though there is no proof of that. Effectively, once I hand over the 29 plus Euros, VAT will have been paid twice.
The system for sending gifts either way is now flawed as a result of BREXIT.
Sunday, December 19, 2021
Can someone explain?
In April it was reported that just over 2% of Spaniards offered a coronavirus vaccine had rejected it. Those rejecting the vaccine have been registered. I don't have more recent figures but I imagine they are similar.
By contrast, the Health Secretary in the UK says that 10% of the population - more than five million people - have still not taken up the offer of the vaccine, and that around nine out of 10 of those needing the most hospital care were unvaccinated.
Only this week there was a demonstration by the "antivaxxers" in London. At the same time there was a protest by those who wanted the Government to reject further measures to prevent the spread of Covid.
I don't understand why, apart from medical reasons, anyone would refuse a vaccine that has been proven to reduce the chances of either contracting coronavirus or at least being seriously ill from it.
They may argue that it is their choice and by refusing the vaccine they are not endangering others. I don't believe that is entirely true. Those who are unvaccinated are likely to be the ones spreading the virus including to those who have been vaccinated. They are the ones taking up the majority of hospital beds putting unnecessary strain on the Health Service.
I would love to hear a sound, well thought out reason why so many are refusing to be vaccinated. A friend of my eldest daughter says on Facebook that she has not been vaccinated but does not explain why.
Sunday, December 12, 2021
Strictly Come Dancing fans, here are my predictions.
First of all the way the scoring works is this:
The judges rank the couples in order (forget the total scores they get). This week there were four couples so the top one would normally get four points , then three, two and one.
However, this week there were two couples at the top so they both got 4 points. The next couple got 3 and the bottom couple 2.
The people's vote was also counted and again the top couple got 4 and the second 3 but, since it is virtually impossible for couples to get the same number of votes from the public, the third couple got 2 and the last couple 1.
The two scores were then added together to find the two couples with the lowest totals.
From the scores last night and the results of previous weeks, I predict that those two would have been Rhys and Nancy and John and Johannes.
Now, since Rhys got the lowest score from the judges, I predict he was the one who the judges eliminated.
The BBC like to pretend that the results shows take place on Sunday but we all know that is not true. It follows straight on from the count of the public votes on Saturday.
Next week will be the final where the three remaining contestants will dance for the Glitterball.
Although all three have received perfect scores for their dances from the judges and could therefore be considered to have more or less equal chances, it will only be the public vote that will count in the final.
I therefore predict that Rose will win unless she has a dreadful three dances next week. I base this on the results of online votes for the couple who the public think should win where Rose has consistently come out top.
Wednesday, December 08, 2021
More cases of Covid in the family
Our grandson, Rory, was the first member of the family to be infected. Then our youngest daughter, Laura, and our son-on-law, David, caught the virus from Rory. At that time our granddaughter, Molly, escaped infection and tested negative.
That didn't last because Molly has now tested positive for Covid as has our eldest daughter, Jemma. They will now both have to self isolate for 10 days which means they will be able to enjoy Christmas.
Molly, at 11 years of age, is displaying minor symptoms, Jemma though has what she describes as a bad cold.
I'd like to able to say that, whilst Covid cases in the UK are on the rise, those in Spain remain steady but that is not true. The r rate here is above 1 which means that it is on the rise.
That's Sunday night covered.
In the words of the Music School:
An exciting musical festival, with the collaboration of the script by our countryman Jesús López Moya, and carried out by our children from the School, our Youth Band, and even some secret guest artists that, we assure you, will not leave you indifferent.
Monday, December 06, 2021
Could it get worse?
Today I read in several newspapers an account from the Sunday Times about widespread use of cocaine in the Palace of Westminster. There is also mention of a whiff of cannabis in the areas where staff are allowed to smoke.
It seems that swabs were taken in 12 toilets and in 11 of them there were traces of cocaine. These toilets are only open to those who have parliamentary passes, in other words MPs and staff. One of the toilets was close to the offices of the PM and another the Home Secretary.
The Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, says that he will be calling in the Metropolitan Police to investigate and maybe use sniffer dogs to search out the class A drug.
I might be being cynical here but surely, giving the offenders notice like this will mean that nothing will come of the search. I can't help but feel it would have been better to have kept this out of the news and just arranged a swoop on Westminster to catch the buggers red handed.
Please excuse the pun but these people need to be "sniffed out" and made to "toe the line".
Sunday, December 05, 2021
The final nail
As I have said before, we decided back in October that we would not travel to the UK for Christmas this year. One of our concerns was that there may well be changes in the situation and thus changes in the rules.
Of course we could not foresee the emergence of a new variant of Covid but we could see that Covid infections were not going down in the UK.
The Omicron variant has now thrown a spanner into the works for anyone wishing to travel to the UK and indeed for those wanting to come to Spain*.
Last week it was decided that travelers to the UK would have to take a PCR test before day 2 and would have to self isolate until they had a negative result from the test. Now, to add to that, they also have to take either a lateral flow or a PCR test no more than 48 hours before departure and have proof of a negative result .
These measures apply to those who are double or even triple jabbed like Pam and I. Apart form the extra cost of these tests, there is the inconvenience.
* As we are residents, my understanding is that our Covid passports would still entitle us to return here.
Saturday, December 04, 2021
Friday, December 03, 2021
Make sure you have your Covid passport or certificate
Just to remind you that the new regulation about Covid passports in the Valencia community comes into force at midnight tonight.
Establishments and users that do not comply with the new rules will face serious and light penalties which range from 60 to 30,000 Euros.
The serious ones will apply to establishments where it is mandatory to request a certificate, that is, venues such as restaurants with a capacity of more than 50 people and events for more than 500 people.
Even the failure to put up signs reminding people of the passport requirement could incur a fine of between 60 and 600 euros. The same fine will be faced by individuals who access premises, events or establishments without the certificate.
Wednesday, December 01, 2021
It is your choice
Dr Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said that people could help keep the new variant at bay by cutting down social contacts over the festive period and “not socialising when we don’t particularly need to”. Other senior medics have echoed her advice.
But Mr Johnson said the government was “not changing the guidance on how you should be living your life” and urged people not to cancel events like Christmas parties and nativity plays.
He believes that a push to increase the "booster jab" rollout will be sufficient to ward of the dangers of the new variant. Johnson talks of injection sites popping up like Christmas trees. However, even the best estimates show that it will take until the end of January to get booster jabs into people's arms. Added to which, it isn't yet clear whether the current vaccines will protect us against the new variant.
As he has done throughout the pandemic, Johnson is gambling that, with minimum measures in place, everything will be still be OK.
As I have said here before, there is a lack of trust in the PMs actions. Many venues are already facing cancellations as people are choosing caution over optimism. Schools are weighing up whether a virtual nativity would be safer than one where their halls would be crammed with parents and relatives.
In the end, who's opinion would you trust more, well respected and qualified medical experts or Boris? I suspect many would no more take his advice on Covid than his recommendation for a good hairdresser.
As for plans to visit England for Christmas
The World Health Organisation advice is -
“Persons who are unwell or at risk of developing severe COVID-19 disease and dying, including people 60 years of age or older or those with comorbidities (e.g. heart disease, cancer and diabetes), should be advised to postpone travel.”
Tuesday, November 30, 2021
We were right
Whilst we were in England for our grandson's birthday, the family asked if we would be coming over for Christmas. I think they expected the answer to be yes so when we told them we probably wouldn't, they were taken aback.
Our first concern was how challenging the journey in October had been for us. The fact that we'd had to change our plans just the week before also weighed on our minds. When we were planning the trip it never occurred to us that one of the family may get infected and the impact that would have.
The constant changes in rules that have taken place over the last 20 months was also a major factor. We did not want to arrive in England only to find that we would have to isolate and worst still not be able to return to Spain.
We were also mindful that the infection rate in the UK was rising which indicated that the spread of the disease was far from under control. OK, fewer people were seriously ill and dying but still the number of cases was high. How could we know what the situation come Christmas would be?
As it stands, it seems like we made the right decision. The emergence of a new variety has caused alarm and a flurry of new measures have been hurriedly put in place.
The one that would most effect us is the requirement to self isolate until you have a negative PCR test result. We didn't get the results of our tests until we were at the airport on the way back in October. What would be the point in going over just to spend days in self isolation unable to be with the family. Also, if cases rise in Spain it is possible that we would be put on the "red list" which would mean our isolation would be in a hotel at considerable expense. We'd have to cancel the trip and lose the money we'd paid out.
Interestingly, the one measure that would make no difference to us is the requirement to wear a mask in shops and other public indoor settings. We have worn masks in shops here in Spain right from the start. People here don't complain or question the rule, they simply mask up and get on with it. If the rule had been dropped, as it was in the UK, then there would likely be the same resistance to mask up again.
We remain hopeful that we will be able to visit the family next Spring but who knows. We are certainly not booking flights yet.
Friday, November 26, 2021
Tuesday, November 23, 2021
A tale of two speeches
As I reported, my friend Cristopher spoke very well at the concert for Santa Cecilia on Saturday. He followed the advice given to him NOT to try and ad lib and it worked.
By comparison, Boris Johnson's speech to the Confederation of British Industry has caused something of a social media storm. In a confused, shambling performance, the Tory premier lost his place repeatedly throughout the speech and spent three minutes talking about his family trip to a theme park based on Peppa Pig. He asked the assembled businessmen 'Hands up how many of you here have been to Peppa Pig World?':
Johnson managed to refer to himself in the third person by praising the 'vision' of the former Mayor of London, quoted Vladimir Lenin's 'Report On The Work Of The Council Of People’s Commissars' when discussing the 'electrification' of the British economy.
He also compared himself to a biblical prophet, suggesting he had descended from 'Mount Sinai' to hand civil servants his Net Zero framework.
The highlights were dominated by awkward moments: Johnson asking the room early on who had received their booster shots, only to quickly follow up that everyone looked ‘young and thrusting’ – presumably to cover for an insufficient number of hands in the air. A chunk of the speech was dedicated to the PM reminiscing about what he said was his favourite job to date: his time as motoring correspondent for GQ magazine. This anecdote culminated in Johnson imitating the ‘vroom, vroom’ of a petrol engine.
There was a long and awkward pause as he lost his place in his notes and had to apologise several times as Johnson fumbled with the papers.
Johnson is known for going off track in speeches, often to the dismay of his advisers. He likes to throw in jokes and anecdotes which the tory faithful seem to enjoy. However, as Prime Minister leading the country through a series of crisis, we might just expect him to be more serious and more focussed at the moment.
At the end, one concerned reporter asked him if he was OK to which he replied that he thought his speech had gone down well.
|Johnson with his son Wilfred at Peppa Pig World|
Monday, November 22, 2021
A musical heritage
You may wonder why music is regarded with such importance in Bigastro along with other towns in the area.
According to Vega Baja Digital, there are 1,100 music bands, 550 musical societies, more than 40,000 musicians, 60,000 students and some 200,000 associates in the Vega Baja region.
This means the Vega Baja hosts 50% of the musical societies in Spain.
Like I dare say most of you, we did not appreciate how important music was to the area before living here.
Worth the wait
It has been a long time since the band played a concert in the Auditorium. The last concert for Santa Cecilia was 2019 so there was a lot of making up to be done.
First off, the new musicians from 2020 and 2021 had to be introduced to the band, then there were honours for those musicians who had made outstanding contributions.
With the presentations over, the band struck up with a pasadoble followed by a comprehensive programme that totalled just over 49 minutes of music.
You can listen to the concert via this link
As I have already mentioned in a previous post, the speech this year was given by Christopher Riley, the only English person left playing with the band. He kept us all spellbound for over 21 minutes with an account of his time with SUMB - punctuated by humour and appreciation for the help the members of the band had given him.
Two things to take away from his speech, "never wear new shoes when taking part in a procession around Orihuela" and "the real location for the band is NOT in the Auditorium but in the Pizza take away across the street".
To round off the celebrations, we had the traditional meal that follows Santa Cecilia. This year it was at Camping La Pedrera (very handy for Pam and I!).
I can honestly say it was one of the best meals we have enjoyed with the band. The food was excellent and of course, the company was outstanding.
A huge thanks to Alfonso and the rest of SUMB for both a wonderful concert and a wonderful afternoon.
Saturday, November 20, 2021
Another Christmas competition
Friday, November 19, 2021
When we met the Mayor outside the Town Hall the other day, she asked if we had our third dose of Pfizer. When we told her we hadn't, she suggested we phoned the Medical Centre to make an appointment.
However, before we got round to doing that, Pam had a phone call giving her an appointment for this morning. They said I should go down as well.
Our appointments were for 10:40 and 10:41 am but they were running late so it was nearer 11:00am before our names were called.
Pfizer in one arm and the flu vaccine in the other. Fingers crossed, that will mean we have a trouble free winter.
When I had the first dose of Pfizer my arm was a little sore for a couple of days. I had no problems with the second dose though. Pam was fine with both jabs.
This time the Covid jab in the left harm stung as it went it and my arm feels sore at the injection site. The flu injection in the right arm was painless but now feels a little sore (not as much as the Covid jab though).
Pam felt neither injection but her arms are sore now.
We expect that this is temporary and that we will be OK after a couple of days.
What I can tell you is that a little discomfort is far better than the effects of Covid or indeed flu.
Our youngest daughter and her husband both had Covid in spite of being double jabbed with Astra Zeneca. It was not a pleasant experience and left them tired out for a week or so after recovery. They lost their senses of taste and smell days after testing positive- both senses have gradually returned.
Tuesday, November 16, 2021
Further to my item about passports being stamped, I have now read about inconsistencies at Alicante Airport.
It seems that some, who have shown both their passport and TIE card, have still had their passports stamped. Others have just been waved through without even examining their documents.
CSB, the bureau who handle our legal affairs here, tell me that we should have proactively shown both our passports and TIE cards at the Spanish border. The fact is we didn't but from what I have read, it may not have made any difference anyway.
Following the end of the transition period, the rules about how long you can stay in Spain as a non-resident are being applied (90 days in 180). If you are not a resident and have stamps in your passport that indicate you have been in the country longer than 90 days, you could be classed as an illegal overstayer which would mean you would be denied entry on a subsequent visit.
NB The 90 day rule applies to all countries in the Schengen region. Those who are not European residents need to keep a record of how long they have stayed in any of the countries covered by the rule and make sure the number does not exceed 90 out of 180.
PS I've read that the stamps are meaningless because the dates are recorded electronically on your passport when it is swiped. However, when we left and returned to Spain, our passports were scanned but not swiped. It was only in Manchester that our passports were swiped at the border.
Reduced rise in our pensions
We might have expected the triple lock on state pensions to be sacrosanct after the Conservative party pledged to keep it during their 2019 election campaign.
In truth though, we should have known better. The present government does not have a good track record on keeping promises. They claim that the cost this year would have been too high and that inflated cost would have been ongoing in future years.
The government has therefore confirmed a one-year suspension of the ‘triple lock’ for annual state pension increases. The average earnings component will be disregarded in 2022-23 (as it was last year) and the rise will temporarily be replaced with a ‘double lock’ linked to either inflation or 2.5%.
We were on track to get a record boost to our state pension next year thanks to artificially high earnings growth – by more than 8% due to the effects of the furlough scheme, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). Sadly, that is not to be.
The ONS says that the state pension amount will increase by 3.1% for the tax year 2022/23. This will represent a boost of up to £288.60 for the year, reaching a total of up to £9,627.80. The full state pension amount from April 2022 will be £185.15 a week, up from £179.60.
The promise now is that the suspension of the triple lock will just be for this next year. We will have to wait and see if that promise is kept. Surely the Conservatives know better than to upset silver haired voters who represent a large part of their support.
Monday, November 15, 2021
A date for your diary
After the celebrations for Santa Cecilia were cancelled last year, I am delighted to tell you they will take place this year.
Friday 19th 19:30 - the band will parade the streets collecting the new musicians on the way.
Saturday 20th 19:00 Concert for Santa Cecilia in the Auditorium.
Sunday 21st 12:00 Mass in honour of Santa Cecilia. Followed by lunch for the brotherhood at 14:00.
I am also delighted to tell you that our great friend Christopher Riley will be the speaker at the concert this year.
Saturday, November 06, 2021
Latest coronavirus news
Orihuela health department reports that the current 14 day incidence rate is 32.11 per 100,000 inhabitants, going from a level 0 to 1 (low risk) and in the Torrevieja health department the AI is 92.46, which makes this area go from level 1 to 2 (medium risk). Rojales has registered an outbreak of about twenty infections of social origin and Pilar de la Horadada has registered the most cases in the last 14 days with an important outbreak in a group of seasonal workers.
80% of the last infections produced correspond to people without vaccination against COVID19.
The Valencian Community will begin to administer flu vaccine among the population next week. In the case of those over 70 years of age the plan is to administer the third dose against COVID-19 at the same time, as recommended by the health authorities
Wednesday, November 03, 2021
Pam and I had our passports stamped at border control both when we left and returned to Spain last week. How will this effect us?
This is what the British Embassy says:
UK nationals who can demonstrate that they were resident in Spain before 1 January 2021 should not have their passport stamped or be subject to routine intentions questioning upon entry, exit and transit through the Schengen border. However, we are conscious that it is happening in some cases and we continue to feed this back to the Spanish authorities.
If you are resident in Spain, you should always travel with both your valid passport and proof of your residence status, such as:
• your residence document: the green paper EU certificate or the new TIE. The Spanish authorities have published guidance on the continued validity of the green residency certificate here:
• a certificate of application for residency in Spain,
• or other documentation that shows you were resident in Spain prior to the end of the transition period.
If you have had your passport incorrectly stamped, despite showing proof of residency, we want to reassure you that your rights in Spain will not be affected. If you are still not officially resident, the stamp will also not affect your ability to apply under the Withdrawal Agreement, as long as you can demonstrate that you were legally residing here by 31 December 2020.
When travelling in the future, any stamp will be considered null and void when accompanied by evidence of lawful residence such as your residency certificate. Some border authorities may annul incorrect stamps when presented with evidence of residence, but this is not required. If you wish to raise an incorrect stamp with the authorities you should contact the Ministry of Interior http://www.interior.gob.es/contacto.
Perhaps we should have showed our TIE cards at the same time as our passports and thus avoided stamps. However, nobody pointed this out to us. From this article, it seems that this will not cause us a problem next time we want to re-enter the country as long as we have our TIE cards to prove our right to be here.
More than one million out of the seven million over 70s in Spain have already received a booster shot of a Covid-19 vaccine.
Andalusia, Aragón and Murcia have begun administering booster shots to the over-70 population, and the rest of Spain’s regions are expected to do so in the coming days, coinciding with the start of the flu vaccination campaign.
78.6% of the entire population of Spain is fully vaccinated, while 80.2% has had at least one shot. This equates to 37.3 million and 38 million people, respectively.
The coronavirus incidence rate in Spain is holding steady. According to the figures released on Tuesday evening, the 14-day number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants now stands at 49.03, down 0.83 points from Friday. That compares favourably with the rate in England that currently stands at 416.9 per 100,000 down from a high of 488.4 in October.
Tuesday, November 02, 2021
So, we were in England last week for our grandson's seventh birthday.
Originally, we were going to stay for five days at our youngest daughter's house and then three at our oldest daughter's.
That plan went kaput when our grandson tested positive for Covid. He only had mild symptoms and was out of isolation the day we arrived. Unfortunately though, he'd passed the infection onto his mother and father and so we could not stay at their house. Meanwhile, our granddaughter tested negative and so we were able to be with her.
We quickly booked into a nearby hotel and did not visit them until they had completed their ten days of isolation.
Our eldest daughter brought forward her plans and stayed with us in the hotel and so at least we were able to take the children out and spoil them.
It was only on the Tuesday that we were able to be with the whole family.
Inline with current regulations, Pam and I had PCR tests on the second day and the results were negative so we are OK..
In all, a complicated trip but still we made it and saw everyone for the first time in 18 months.
However, when we returned our central heating boiler wasn't working and of course - sods law - it was a four day holiday here in Spain.
All is well now though. It turned out to be a blocked pipe in the boiler which Jose Maria cleared this morning. At last we can have showers!!
Monday, November 01, 2021
Some photos from the celebration
Bigastro on fire
Sunday, October 31, 2021
We missed it
Whilst we were in Manchester celebrating our grandson's seventh birthday, there was a special mass held in the main park to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of San Joaquin in Bigastro. There was also the burning of a fallas in the park at Holy Cross.
Fortunately, my great friend and photographer Fonta was there at both to take photos. Those of you on Facebook can find them by searching for Fonta Bigastro.
Sunday, October 24, 2021
That was some rainstorm
Ready to burn
Thursday, October 21, 2021
On October 5, 2021, the Public Health Commission approved the recommendation to administer an additional dose of vaccine to people over 70 years of age , since age is the main risk factor for COVID-19. This additional dose will be administered six months after the administration of the second dose.
Previously, on September 16, 2021, the Public Health Commission approved the recommendation to administer an additional dose to people with high-risk conditions.
After the 25th October, Valencia will be sending notification to people to get their annual flu injection. It is thought possible that they may administer the booster Covid injections to those over 70 at the same time.
Like many of the people of our age in Bigastro, we had our second dose of Pfizer towards the end of May so we are looking at November as the possible time for us.
Well, well, well
We've lived in Bigastro since November 2004 and there were some here before that.
So, after over 17 years of people living here, the council has now decided that we need pedestrian crossings on the roads of the estate and there are people painting them this morning as we speak.
Any measure that provides road safety for pedestrians is of course welcome.
Bigastro has lots of pedestrian crossings marked out. There are even some that lead from one side of a street to the other where there is no pavement and presumably nobody wanting to cross..
Like all road markings here, these are painted on the road rather than laid with white tarmac. In time the paint fades and wears off with traffic. No matter, sometime later a gang arrives to repaint them.
The blessing is that they haven't yet decided to put traffic calming humps on that road as they did on Calle Holanda.
On another note, there are people laying what I assume is a water pipe to the allotments. That may mean that we will see some growing activity there soon.
Wednesday, October 20, 2021
No need for Plan B
The UK now has one of the highest weekly rates of new reported cases in the world, and vaccination rates have fallen behind other European countries.
While the weekly rate of new reported cases stands at 24 per 100,000 people in Spain and 48 per 100,000 people in France, this figure currently stands at 463 per 100,000 people in the UK.
Data shows that approximately 67% of the population has received two doses of a COVID-19 jab, compared with 75% in Denmark, 79% in Spain and 86% in Portugal.
The UK government insists that there is no need to return to restrictions nor to implement its Plan B.
Their hope is that ramping up the vaccination programme to children aged 12 to 15 and booster jabs to those whose immunity has diminished will be sufficient. Because the UK was early on in getting vaccines into people's arms means that the need for booster jabs there is more urgent. The UK was slow off the mark to approve vaccines for children and is struggling to get those that are eligible to come forward.
Celebrating 200 years
Monday, October 18, 2021
March against breast cancer
The Fallas returns to Bigastro
The Fallas was a custom created by carpenters celebrating the arrival of spring. On the night of the 19th of San José's day, they burned the pieces they used to raise the lamps that illuminated them during winter. Today they have become a very important tourist attraction, classified as a festival of International Tourist Interest.
In Bigastro, this pyrotechnic festival began to be celebrated in the 50s where the fallas were installed in Calle Barrio Nuevo (formerly C / Queipo de Llanos) where, in addition to the pyrotechnic show, festivals and days of coexistence among the residents of the municipality were held .
The Department of Festivities of the City of Bigastro wants to commemorate this festivity next Saturday, October 23rd at 9:00 p.m. after the campaign mass, where we can enjoy this pyrotechnic show.
This event is intended to recover this tradition - counting on the cooperation of artisans who will make the monuments that will later be burned.
Assembly of the fallas: Thursday 21 at 5:00 p.m.
Burning the fallas: Saturday October 23
Time: 9:00 p.m.
Place: Next to Parque de la Cruz
Sex off the streets
When we first came to live here, Pam and I were surprised to find "ladies" at the side of the road. When our granddaughter visited, we explained that they were waiting for a bus. We can't be the only people who find it awkward to explain why scantily dressed young ladies stand at the side of roads here. Spanish parents must be equally embarrassed by their presence.
Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez pledged on Sunday he was going to re-criminalise prostitution in the country.
Prostitution was decriminalised in Spain in 1995 and in 2016 the UN estimated the country's sex industry was worth €3.7bn .A 2009 survey found that up to 1 in 3 Spanish men had paid for sex.
One of the arguments for prostitution claims that, allowing men to pay for sex cuts down on cases of rape.
In 2019, Mr Sanchez's party published a pledge in its election manifesto to outlaw prostitution, in what was seen as a move to attract more female voters. The manifesto called prostitution "one of the cruellest aspects of the feminisation of poverty and one of the worst forms of violence against women".
However two years on from the election, no legislation has yet been tabled.
We shall see!
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
Pigs are killing the fish
Taken from an article in the Guardian:
In August, scores of dead fish began washing up on the shores of the Mar Menor lagoon. Within days, the toll had climbed to more than five tonnes of rotting carcasses littering beaches. The stench was apparently unbearable.
Scientists blamed decades of nitrate-laden runoffs for triggering vast blooms of algae that had depleted the water of oxygen – essentially leaving the fish suffocating underwater
This summer, as dead fish continued to wash up on the shores of Mar Menor, the regional government banned the use of fertilisers within 1.5km of the lagoon, hinting that blame for the crisis lay solely with the wide expanse of agricultural fields that border the lagoon. The central government was more direct, accusing local officials of lax oversight when it came to irrigation in the fields.
But nobody mentioned the pig farms that have proliferated in the past decade in the Mar Menor catchment basin.
In 2019, a report by Spain’s environment ministry estimated that these pig farms – which at the time counted nearly 800,000 animals – could be responsible for 17% of nitrogen in the Mar Menor aquifer.
Drone photography and satellite imagery of the area, collected in September by reporters working on the new investigation, appeared to show pig waste spilling out of slurry ponds, dumped on nearby land or stored in large holes in the ground.
The investigation’s findings echo the environment ministry’s 2019 report. In visits to 10% of the slurry pits in the Mar Menor basin, more than 90% were found to have not met regulations that waste from pigs must be stored in enclosed waterproof ponds, the report noted.
“Major deficiencies have been detected in the facilities to store livestock waste … the waterproofing is almost non-existent, allowing waste to leak directly into the ground and resulting in the contamination of the aquifer,” it added.
The number of pigs in the region of Murcia has soared to record levels, mirroring a rise in farms and slaughterhouses across Spain. More than 56 million pigs were slaughtered across Spain last year, 3 million more than in 2019, and rocketing demand for exports has Spain poised to overtake Germany as the EU’s top pork producer this year.
Saturday, October 09, 2021
The grand plan
There is a video on TV Vega Baja where Antonio José Meseguer Cabañés shows us his latest project for Bigastro.
It seems that the intent is to pedestrianise 2 km of the town centre to improve the prospects of commerce in the town. There will also be work done on the town's main park.
In the video, Antonio holds a map which shows the streets involved and we are given a quick tour of them. We need to see the map properly online to find out the full intentions.
In June, there was talk of creating 19 parking spaces on Calle Purisima whilst still keeping it pedestrianised. Perhaps that plan has now been abandoned. I can't say but for sure no parking spaces have been marked out.
Parking in the town centre has always been a nightmare. Finding a space on the streets is almost impossible. Perhaps the multi-storey car park that has been mostly closed since it was constructed will now be open and free for people to use.
Of course, pedestrianised shopping centres normally have service roads at the back of the shops where deliveries can be made. There is no such road at the back of the shops in Bigastro and no possibility of constructing one. I can only assume that provision will still have to be made for deliveries on the streets closed to traffic. I guess that the car workshop between Calles Mayor and Aureliano Diaz will have to close though!
Friday, October 01, 2021
Wednesday, September 29, 2021
Boris Johnson has laid low for the five days since the petrol crisis began in the UK. The official line was that there was no crisis with the supply of petrol and that stocks at refineries were normal. Instead there was a minor issue getting the petrol to the pumps. The blame has been put on the shoulders of those who rushed out to panic buy, filling their tanks when they would not normally do so.
Boris finally tells the public, "fill up in the normal way and the crisis will end". He says there are signs that the situation is improving.
It is widely accepted that there is a shortage of about 100,000 HGV drivers in the UK.
The army are now being called in to help. However, I doubt their 150 drivers will make a huge impact but every little bit helps. Simple logic tells you that it will take weeks not days for the situation to improve. Even if there was a plentiful supply of drivers, they could not restock all the garages in a matter of days.
Other measures like extending visas for 5,000 foreign drivers, offering more HGV tests and slimming down the testing process have been muted but these are perhaps more long term than immediate solutions.
The shortage of petrol at filling stations is only one area that is effected by the lack of qualified drivers. Empty shelves in supermarkets show that all deliveries have been cut and will continue to be cut in the run up to Christmas.
Of course, this is not a crisis that has happened overnight. It was recognised back in 2017 that there was a shortage of HGV drivers but at that time Brexit took precedence and so the issue was left unresolved.
The real crisis, in my opinion, is that very few people trust Johnson and his ministers any more. He has told so many lies over the past that people just ignore him when they can clearly see that his version of the truth is different to the reality before them.
Monday, September 27, 2021
A move towards normality
Yesterday, I should have been taking photos of the procession of the statue of the Virgin of Bethlehem around the streets. On this occasion, she would have been accompanied by the statue of San Joaquin to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of its arrival in Bigastro.
With Covid precautions still in place, that could not take place. Instead, we had the fireworks.
However, by way of compensation, we were treated to a concert by the Manuel Moya Choir in the Auditorium.
Precautions meant that all those attending had to wear masks, our temperatures were taken and names and phone numbers recorded.
It was strange to see the choir singing with masks on their faces.
I did take my sound recorder along but unfortunately, in the dark, I pressed the wrong buttons and made a silent recording from inputs that had nothing attached to them.
Friday, September 24, 2021
When Corporal Jones said "don't panic", that is exactly what he did. It was one of Clive Dunn's famous phrases from Dad's Army.
For weeks now, we have been reading about empty shelves in British supermarkets. Now it seems that some petrol stations are having to close because of lack of fuel.
The official line is that there is no shortage of food and no shortage of fuel. In fact large quantities of food are having to be thrown away.
Like Corporal Jones, Downing Street says, "don't panic". Well we know exactly what the effect of a statement like that is. If you see empty shelves at the supermarket and the garage has no petrol, what conclusion are you meant to draw? It doesn't matter what the reason is, you don't want to be the one caught out. Even if your supermarket or garage hasn't already been affected, it could be next.
The issue is a shortage of drivers to deliver the goods. A figure or 100,000 is being quoted by industry bosses.
The reasons are complex. The blame seems to lie between poor working conditions. BREXIT and the pandemic.
Covid is certainly part of the problem. As travel became increasingly restricted last year, and large parts of the economy shut down, many European drivers went home. And haulage companies say very few have returned.
The pandemic has also created a large backlog in HGV driver tests, so it's been impossible to get enough new drivers up and running.
There is evidence of HGV driver shortages across Europe, but the UK has been among the hardest hit by the problem.
When the UK was part of the single market, drivers used to be able to come and go as they pleased.
But the additional border bureaucracy after Brexit meant it was too much hassle for many of them to drive into and out of the UK.
Many drivers are paid by the mile or kilometre rather than by the hour, so delays cost them money.
Also, the decline in the value of the pound against the euro since the Brexit vote has meant that being paid in pounds has been less attractive for EU nationals.
Too late, pictures in some UK newspapers show long queues of cars at petrol stations up and down the country. Many rely on their car either for work or to get to work and understandably they are not prepared to risk being without fuel. Of course, those newspapers that are making a headlines out of this shortage are only making matters worse.
Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Volcano in the Canaries
You may have seen reports of the eruption of a volcano on La Palma.
No human loss has been reported, but around 6,000 people have been evacuated and 320 homes destroyed by towering lava flows rising up to 12 meters high. Scientists are also warning about the potential danger of toxic gas clouds if and when the molten rock reaches the sea.
The Canary Islands, a volcanic archipelago located off the north-western coast of Africa, have a history of eruptions. The longest one on record in La Palma took place in 1585 and lasted 84 days; the shortest one dates to 1971 and extended for 25 days. There was also an underwater eruption off the island of El Hierro in 2011.
It is likely that sulphur dioxide gas will be carried by the wind onto mainland Spain but the levels will be low and are not expected to be dangerous to health.
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Wednesday, September 15, 2021
A few weeks ago I spotted a cockroach in the en-suite which disappeared before I could deal with it. Then last week, there was one on a wall in the bedroom which I sprayed and hopefully killed. Since then, we have found two more in the bedroom which I dealt with.
It seems that we could have an infestation. How they came to get into the house is a mystery, we have fly screens on any windows that are opened. My thought is that they may have come in via the bidet which has an overflow opening at the top.
Pamela is freaking out at the thought of waking up to find one in the bed which is of course possible.
Monday, September 13, 2021
Living with Covid
Here in Spain, as in the UK, the thinking is that we will have to learn to live with Covid for the foreseeable future. Few experts now believe that the once touted idea of "herd immunity" which was supposed to end the pandemic will not happen.
At the time, it was thought that those who had recovered from Covid would develop natural immunity and the vaccine would provide immunity to the rest. Talk now is of Covid as being endemic. In other words nobody will have full immunity, even those who have had Covid or have had two doses of vaccine could still contract the virus.
However, the success of vaccination programme means that fewer people will be seriously ill and even fewer will die. The latest wave has resulted in a significant decrease in hospitalisations and deaths.
Unlike in the UK, there will be no Freedom Day in Spain when the majority of restrictions will be lifted. Instead, there will be a gradual easing of curbs to freedom. Likewise, there is no talk of avoiding further lockdowns here in Spain.
Here in Valencia
A series of new measures came into force on September 7 and will remain in place until September 27. The night-time curfew was scrapped on September 7, and new limits on capacity were introduced. Capacity in bars and restaurants is now set at 50% with a limit of eight people to a table. In outdoor areas, there are no restrictions on capacity, and up to 10 people can be seated at a table. Bars and restaurants must close at 12.30, and consumption at bar counters remains prohibited. Night-time venues can open until 3am at 50% capacity in indoor areas. Eight people are allowed at a table inside and 10 outdoors. Dancing is also banned.
Saturday, September 11, 2021
May he rest in peace
Born on February 26, 1940, Don José Calvo Sáez was mayor of the town between 1979 and 1983. Under his administration, Bigastro grew in every way with infrastructures that we still enjoy today.
His actions as mayor include the inauguration of the municipal soccer field, the installation of the first traffic lights in the municipality, the reform of the town hall, the approval of the first General Urban Planning Plan in the history of Bigastro, the construction of the park municipal Huerto del Cura, the repair of schools, the construction of the first house of culture in the old laundry and the creation of the first social centre, in the old asylum of the nuns.
He was a good man who knew how to leave an indelible mark among his neighbours, with deep affection for his Bigastro, a municipality where he was born and grew up, and which now welcomes him into eternity as part of its history.
Rest in peace, mayor.
Friday, September 03, 2021
A photo contest
Wednesday, September 01, 2021
Is it the end of summer?
In better times, pre covid, we would have visitors from England from the last weeks of August into September.
Well, they would not have enjoyed the weather one bit if they had arrived this year. Dull, gloomy days with high humidity. OK, it is still warm, some would say too warm but that is no consolation for visitors when the sun isn't shining.
I don't need to tell you that it has rained this morning nor that it will rain on and off for the next few days. We had thought to get away for a few days to a hotel in Los Alcazares, Thankfully, we changed our minds.
Tuesday, August 31, 2021
Make a note to self
Saturday, August 21, 2021
La Vuelta hits town
Wednesday, August 18, 2021
Fireworks for San Joaquin
A job well done
The issue now is water.
Monday, August 16, 2021
Our fantastic neighbours
Saturday, August 14, 2021
The bells were appealing
Watching the Olympics, it was obvious from their faces the great satisfaction and pride that the athletes felt - not just those that won medals but those whose performances met their personal best as well.
It struck me last night, at the Concert for San Joaquin, that the musicians in our band must experience the same satisfaction when they have played well. The beaming delight on their faces and the face of the director said it all last night because it was a triumphant performance.
The challenge of playing Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture was met with aplomb. There were no cannons but there were church bells and it was magnificent. In fact the whole programme was an absolute delight to listen to.
If you have never listened to my recordings of the band before, I suggest you listen to this one.
PS The band have played the 1812 Overture before. I recall it was at a similar concert held in the Town Square but I can't remember the year and who was the director then. I'm sure Pascual Segura (the archivist for the band) will know the answers to my questions.
Friday, August 13, 2021
There are workers on the site of the allotments, strimming the weeds and collecting them up into large bags.
That is good news on two counts:
1. It should look a lot tidier.
2. Clearing the area will reduce the fire hazard created by the dried vegetation.
Let's hope that people will now be able to take advantage of the area and grow some produce for the table.
Thursday, August 12, 2021
Sunday, bloody Sunday
We're not expecting blood on the streets but we are told that the temperature will reach somewhere between 41 and 45 degrees that day. By next Tuesday, this heatwave should be over and temperatures will be back to normal.
In other years, at 31 degrees folks would be complaining but this year it will feel positively cool.
Tuesday, August 10, 2021
Due to Covid restrictions, the cooking competition has been postponed.
Even without Covid restrictions, I think it was likely to be a toned down affair.
A few years ago, town hall organised a photographic competition which I entered but unfortunately misunderstood the theme.
There were only 6 entrants for the contest from a town where there are likely to be many photographers.
I believe that was because the rules were overly complicated. The photographs had to be a specific size - mounted on foam board which again had to be a specific size and thickness.
In my opinion, the rules for Abuelo Chef were restrictive. Originally it was only open to grandparents and grandchildren. They would have half an hour to buy the ingredients from a local shop and then two hours to cook the food. They would have gas rings and utensils provided but no oven ruling out anything that would need roasting or baking.
Sunday, August 08, 2021
Music in the park
Surprisingly few people came out last night to watch and listen to a section of the band play a "Big Band" concert.
You can listen to it here.
Friday, August 06, 2021
Travel from Spain to the UK
1. Spain remains on the UK’s amber list. If you have been fully vaccinated in Spain, you will not need to quarantine when you arrive in England or take a day 8 test. You still need to take a COVID-19 test in the 3 days before you travel though, book and take a day 2 test and complete a passenger locator form.
2. What does fully vaccinated mean? You must be fully vaccinated with a vaccine authorised by the European Medicines Agency. You must have had your final dose of the vaccine at least 14 days before you arrive in England. Please be aware that the UK does not recognise natural immunity for international travel at this time, but this will be kept under review. We know that the EU DCC does enable people to prove natural immunity. This is not currently accepted in the UK and quarantine and day 8 testing requirements will only be eased, for those who have been fully vaccinated in a relevant European country, with an EMA-approved vaccine.
3. How do I prove my vaccination status? You need to show your travel operator proof that you’ve been fully vaccinated with one of the authorised vaccines before you travel. This proof should be an EU Digital COVID Certificate (EU DCC) for Europe (digital or paper certificate), showing you’ve had a full course of an EMA-approved vaccination..
4. What test do I need to take before travelling? As a precaution against the prevalence of the virus and variants in Spain, the UK is encouraging people travelling from Spain to use a PCR test for their pre-departure test.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, travel is different this year and if you choose to travel abroad you should be prepared for changes in restrictions and requirements both in the country you are travelling from and the country you are travelling to. Keep up to date with the latest information on https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/spain, where you will also find links to the rules for travelling back to the UK.
Thursday, August 05, 2021
Tuesday, August 03, 2021
August mapped out
Another year perhaps
Monday, August 02, 2021
Something to celebrate
Remember that Europe was accused of lagging behind the UK in terms of Covid vaccinations. That was due to the fact that Europe took longer to give regulatory approval to vaccines and the short supply of Astra Zeneca.
The table has now turned. Spain is the nation that has fully vaccinated the largest share of the population out of the 50 largest countries in the world, outstripping the United Kingdom, the United States, France and Germany.
According to the latest figures, 55.7% of the population in Spain is completely vaccinated, equalling 26.4 million people. A total of 31.3 million have at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, or 66% of the population.
Vaccination by age group
As of August 2.
|Age group||With one dose (% of total)||Fully vaccinated (% of total)|
|80 and over|
|Between 70 and 79|
|Between 60 and 69|
|Between 50 and 59|
|Between 40 and 49|
|Between 30 and 39|
|Between 20 and 29|
|Between 12 and 19|