Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The waiting game

Well folks, it looks like we were born at the wrong time. 

Pam and I were born in 1947 and so we are 74 this year which puts us into one of the most vulnerable groups for serious complications if we get infected with Covid 19. There are about 3 million of us in the 70-79 age group living in Spain. 

El Pais tells us that, for people who are now in their late sixties and seventies, there is a good chance they will not be getting their shots before mid-April at the earliest. That is because the government’s guidelines are prioritizing the 80-and-over population who are getting the Pfizer Biontech vaccine and under 65s who are getting  the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

There is a chance that the age limit for use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be extended at a Tuesday meeting of the Public Health Committee. 

However, if the Public Health Committee decides to keep the 65 age limit in place, most of the people over the age of 80 will have to be vaccinated before the 70-to-79 age group starts getting calls for appointments. And those between 65 and 69 years of age will have to wait even longer, until most of the individuals in the 70-to-79 group have been inoculated.

The problem arose because there was insufficient evidence showing the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to be effective in older age groups. However, further studies have proved that the Anglo Swedish vaccine is equally effective for all age groups and the WHO and EMA now recommend removing the age limit. 

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Stay safe

When we went to see Juan Diaz, the hairdresser, he told us his brother had been in hospital with Covid 19 and although he was now at home, he was not at all well. Earlier this month, we learnt that the father of our dear friend, Fonta had died of Covid. 

When you know someone who has been affected, especially someone who has died, it brings it home to you how seriously you need to take this virus. 

Several times whilst we were at the hairdressers, Juan repeated the fact that Covid 19 was now rife and that the situation was worrying. 

The gardener is here this morning and he says much the same. Covid numbers are on the increase  

 The figures now show there have been 666 cases in Bigastro and 8 deaths. 

Of course, we would feel much safer if the vaccine rollout had gone as planned but as I have already reported, Valencia is still vaccinating over 80s with Pfizer-BioNTech and only giving the Astra Zeneca jab to under 65 year old teaching staff. 

In spite of the relaxations in rules, there is still the need for great precaution. 

The arm of the law

On 27 January, Priti Patel said going on holiday was “not a valid reason” to leave home during England’s coronavirus lockdown and added: “Anyone who does not have a valid reason for travel will be directed to return home or they will face a fine.”

The Home Office claimed that police could arrest people who remained intent on going on holiday after being stopped at an airport, saying: “Holiday travel is not allowed and police can fine anyone trying to do so, direct them to go home and, if necessary, use powers of arrest.” As I reported the other day, this has now been reinforced with a threat of a heavy fine.

However, hundreds of thousands of people have flown in and out of the country since the announcement in January, including half a million passengers at Heathrow Airport in February alone. And no holidaymakers have been arrested for violating the “ban” on non-essential foreign travel.

It is one thing for the Home Office to continue making these rules but it is another expecting the police to have the manpower to enforce them. You have to ask yourself, "would you rather the police concentrate on catching criminals or stopping people leaving the country to go on holiday?"

Easter in Bigastro


Friday, March 26, 2021

The problem of supply

 Britain has been applauded for its success in the rollout of  Covid vaccines.  Almost 29 million people in the UK have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. On average they have been administering 463,439 doses per day with a peak of 1.6m over two days on the 19th and 20th of March.  

However, the dream of a speedy recovery from Covid  in Europe is vanishing as the EU is reaching the end of March with fewer than 70 million doses distributed and only 4.2% of the population fully immunized with both shots.

Brussels was expecting to distribute around 160 million doses during the first three months of 2021, enough to give 22% of the adult population their two shots. It was also expecting to receive as many as 380 million doses during the second quarter, allowing health authorities to increase the immunized population to over 60% of the total.

AstraZeneca is now planning to deliver 100 million doses during the first half of the year, that is to say, 170 million fewer than it had pledged. This means that 85 million people will go without their double-dose treatment. Although there were hiccups at first with supplies of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, they have now been resolved and the EU is receiving its expected quota.  

The over 50s in the UK are now being invited to apply for their first shot of a vaccine. Here in Valencia, they are still working slowly through the over 80s. 

Get a move on

The situation in Valencia. 

La Rioja
Castilla y León
Basque Country
Castilla-La Mancha
Balearic Islands
Canary Islands
Melilla (no data provided)

 Look at the chart and you can see that only 54% of the older age group here have been vaccinated which means that the region is not ready to move on to the over 70s. 

There is a debate on whether Spain would have vaccinated a higher percentage of its senior population if it had followed the example of Britain and used the AstraZeneca vaccine on the over-65s. Spain, like many other EU countries, restricted the use of this medication to under-65s on the basis that there was not yet sufficient evidence of its effectiveness for the older age group.

 If the AstraZeneca vaccine had been administered [on the 80-and-over age group], more of the population would now be protected.

In the meantime, nearly 150,000 teachers and teaching support staff will be vaccinated between March 26 and April 1 with doses from AstraZeneca. Given that the age limit for the Anglo-Swedish medication has been lifted, teachers between 55 and 65 years of age will also be vaccinated with these shots. This vaccine will also be administered to healthcare professionals and in-home care workers who still have not received the injection. 

That is good news for those groups of people but it is only fair to point out that they are less vulnerable than the older age groups who are still waiting to hear when it is their turn. 

On a plus note:

Last Monday, the region received 67,8000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which will be used to continue to vaccinate the 80-and-over age group, adults with need for daily assistance who are not in care facilities and their carers, among others.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Catch 22

UK citizens risks a £5,000 fine if they try to leave the country without a valid excuse. Going on holiday is apparently not a valid reason to travel. Work, education or medical treatments are the main exemptions. 

However, you can visit an estate agent, developer sales office or show home abroad.  You can also travel to view residential properties to rent or buy or to prepare a property for moving in.

Tough luck if you want to visit your new home for a holiday though. Once you’ve bought your place in the sun, you won’t be able to make use of it as things stand. Unless of course you say you're preparing it for rental like the PM's father, Stanley Johnson, did during a previous lockdown. 

When you are ready

 I remember, last March, Boris Johnson telling us all that Coronavirus would all be over in 12 weeks. Twelve months later and we are told there won't be an end to this, we will live with this virus for ever.

Whether that is true or not I cannot say. We'd like to think that there will be at least a semblance of normality to look forward to. For us that would mean visiting the family in the UK whom we haven't seen for 12 months. 

One of the conditions for travelling at the moment is that you have a test to show that you are negative and we wondered where you might get such a test here in Spain. 

We know that you can book a test in England with the NHS. In fact they are sending out test kits to people to save you even that inconvenience. But here I don't think things are that simple.

I came across an advert on social media that might answer the question. This is a clinic on the coast that offers a test  with a result that day.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

More white elephants?

 It seems that other municipalities here foresee a demand for allotments where locals can grow vegetables, fruit and maybe flowers.

Following on from the 20 that were established in the middle of our estate, there has been no activity on them. When I asked, I was told only 11 people had expressed an interest in a plot. Whether there have been more takers since, I cannot say. 

I now read that San Miguel has plans to create 24 allotments there. You might assume that these towns conduct research to establish a demand but perhaps not. 

Good news

The president of the Generalitat, Ximo Puig, says that 508 municipalities out of the 542 in the Valencian Community (94%) now have a minimum risk level for coronavirus, with an incidence below 25 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

The Valencian Community is the autonomous community with the lowest case rate in Spain.

Just in case

 In case there are still people without gas, my neighbour has checked and has confirmed that ALL of the estate should have gas. 

He explained that Gordon (and others who still have a problem) need to go outside and locate where the gas pipe enters their property. There are two taps, one of which is on the circular gas regulator. That is the one to turn on and off a couple of times to get the gas flowing back through the pipe into the house. 

Hopefully,  if Gordon does this he will hot water and heating again. 

Just checking

 Following on from my post about gas supply, our gas supply came back about lunchtime on Friday. I took the precaution of going outside, turning the supply tap off and back on just as we do after they conduct the regular 4 yearly check of the system. Whether that was what did the trick or not I can't say but we do have heating and hot water again. 

One of our neighbours, who lives on Calle Escocia, has just been round to say that he still has no gas. He tells me that a delivery was made to the storage tanks on Thursday. When a delivery is made, he says they turn off the supply to houses and then turn it back on once the tanks are full but sometimes they forget.

If you look on your bill, there is a number to contact in case of problems. Perhaps someone on Calle Escocia could call them and let the company know there are still issues with supply there. 

Friday, March 19, 2021

Bad timing

Last week, when we were basking in sunshine, the central heating system barely came on. Now the temperature has plummeted, we have an issue. 

Last night the heating came on as usual at 5pm but by 6pm it had stopped and the house was cooling down. Then I got a call from my neighbour Pepe asking whether we had a problem with our heating. He had already concluded that the gas supply was the root cause - no gas = no heating. When I checked my boiler sure enough it showed an error code E1 meaning fault with gas supply.  

Pepe then phoned the gas company who said that they would send someone to investigate. Of course it is Father's Day today, a national holiday when shops, businesses etc are all closed. I hope that doesn't mean we will have to wait until Monday. Our air conditioning units are designed to either cool or warm the house but it isn't the same as the central heating. 

PS I presume it isn't just houses on our street that are effected. Please let me know if you have a gas supply to your house. 

In fairness, this is the first time in 16 years that we have had an issue with the gas supply. When we first arrived, our heating ran off two gas bottles outside the kitchen. Sods law meant that one of the bottles would run out of gas at weekends when the Ferreteria that sells propane was closed. Once we were connected to the storage tanks and mains gas, that problem was solved and we have basked in the luxury of warmth since.  

For all the dads


Thursday, March 18, 2021

The latest project

 When we saw the giant concrete tubes designed to take excess rainwater under the CV95, we did wonder where this water was to go when it reached the Huerta.

The answer is into a 200,000 litre reservoir located opposite the Medical Centre. 

From there it can be used for irrigation or any other purpose. Water that is not used within 10 days will be drained into the Alquibla canal to prevent the problem of mosquitoes using the stale water as a breeding ground. . 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Don't put your coat away just yet


Monday, March 15, 2021

Do they need to be told?

Spaniards seem to have a different view to the British when it comes to roundabouts. The fact that this diagram is necessary proves the point.

I can't tell you how many times cars have passed mine on the inside of roundabouts and then cut across my path to leave ahead of me just like Car C in this diagram 

The other thing that they do is pull out from behind on a single carriageway road and drive on the other side past two or even three vehicles in front of you. They'll do this  even when they are approaching a bend or a hill where they can't see oncoming traffic. Nobody wants to be held up by a slow moving vehicle like a lorry or a tractor but on single carriageway roads, that is what you have to put up with. 


Some easing of restrictions


Thursday, March 11, 2021

Good news

Sky News shows the rates of Covid infection in European countries. 

Britain, where a third of the population have had their first vaccine, jab shows the greatest improvement. Thankfully though, Spain is not far behind. Since the vaccine programme lags Britain's by a long way, we can only put this down to the effectiveness of the lockdown measures taken here. 

The orange colour indicates a drop of 60 percent in cases. 


Monday, March 08, 2021

A gift for the Queen

Built in the 12th century, the Real Alcázar in Seville is surrounded by around 7,000 square metres of gardens where 1,053 orange trees and 39 lemon trees grow. 

Once they are picked this year, a crate of those bitter oranges will be made into marmalade and sent as a gift to Queen Elizabeth in England.

This is not something new. In the early 20th Century it was customary to send a gift of marmalade to the Queen of England but somehow that tradition got lost. 

In my opinion, nothing beats marmalade at breakfast time. I like it both on toast or on bread. 

I like the subtle flavour of lime marmalade, the sharper flavour of lemon, the tang of orange marmalade and best of all the distinct flavour of ginger marmalade made with or without rhubarb. 

The oranges from my neighbour and friends here in Bigastro would not be good for marmalade, they are far too sweet and have way too much juice. 

The roll call

It always amazes me how, towns that are so close together can have such different weather. Torrevieja and Guardamar are just down the coast from each other but look at the difference in the soaking that each suffered. 


Sunday, March 07, 2021

Easter will likely be cancelled

Spain’s has has made a preliminary agreement with the regions to extend the current coronavirus restrictions on social activity over Easter week. 

Regions will remain under a perimeter lockdown, meaning no one can enter or leave without a justified reason, such as going to work. 

The regions also agreed to set a curfew between 10pm and 6am during Easter week and to ban large events where crowds form, meaning Spain’s Easter processions are likely to be cancelled.

Other measures include a four-person limit on social gatherings in both private and public spaces, regardless of whether they take place indoors or outdoors, and recommendations against members of different households gathering inside the home or other indoor spaces. 

Traditionally, many who own second homes in this area come from Madrid to enjoy an Easter break. Hopefully, they will stay away this year because the incidence of cases in Madrid (253 per 100,000) is the highest of all the regions on the mainland. 

A crazy winter

 Taken from El Pais

From the biggest snowfall in a century and an exceptional cold snap, to unseasonable highs, this winter has gone from one extreme to another in Spain, swinging within a temperature range of 50ºC. 

Intense northerly winds in late December brought an arctic air mass to the peninsula, which became stagnant and continued to cool. The interaction between this mass and Storm Filomena’s air flow, which was very humid and relatively warm, caused a massive snowfall, the scale of which had not been seen in Madrid since 1904.

A second cold snap followed in the wake of Filomena, breaking five records for the lowest minimum temperature. But it wasn’t only the minimum temperatures that were below freezing: the thermometer barely rose during daylight hours either, so two records for the lowest maximum temperatures were also broken. 

Within 10 days, the pendulum had swung in the opposite direction, with unusually high temperatures that broke 20 records. On January 29, temperatures reached almost 30ºC in Alicante, the highest temperature ever recorded in January by AEMET. Between the -25.2ºC felt that day in Molina, in Castilla-La Mancha, and the 29.8ºC reading in Alicante, there was a difference of 55ºC, an unprecedented temperature range in Spain.

Meanwhile, Storm Hortense triggered a bizarre meteorological episode on January 22. Even more staggering is the fact that the phenomenon was repeated on February 5. And, to cap it all, there were two very intense episodes of suspended dust in February. The first one caused a muddy downpour that reached as far as the Pyrenees, where it turned the snow a deep shade of ochre in a weather event not seen for 30 years.

We were promised rain

And boy are we getting it. Looking out the window I can see my pool filling up and are concerned that I may find a lot more water in my pool box. I just hope it doesn't get into the pump. 

On a positive note, it will have washed all that brown dust off our cars. 


The rain has eased off so I went out to examine the box. The water was just below the pump so I waited until the rain stopped and used my bilge pump to bail the water out. 


Saturday, March 06, 2021

Government priorities

NHS staff in the UK are to be awarded a 1% pay increase which Matt Hancock says is fair and all that can be afforded. They were promised 2.1% but that was before the pandemic. 


1. The UK  government is  prepared to spend £2.6 million on a briefing room so it can start daily press conferences.  This has been described by the BBC as another vanity project by the PM.

2. It is also said that the Prime Minister's girlfriend is spending £200,000 refurbishing the flat above No 11 Downing Street and possibly a further £5,000 to replace the carpets that their rescue dog has spoiled. The allegations go on to assert that the PM is looking to find ways to foot the bill by using Conservative Party funds. 

3. The Government have  agreed a £340.000 settlement with Sir Philip Putman who quit amid bullying claims against the Home Secretary, Priti Patel. His resignation led the Cabinet Office to launch an inquiry into whether Ms Patel had broken the code governing ministers' behaviour.

Boris Johnson's standards chief Sir Alex Allan found that she had - but the PM rejected his findings and kept her in post. Sir Alex resigned in response.

4. The Queen’s official fleet of planes is to be sold off as part of defence cuts in a move that will force her to borrow Boris Johnson’s Union Flag jet.

With no plans for a replacement for the four BAE-146 passenger jets, the Queen, Prince Charles and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will have to share the Prime Minister’s RAF Voyager plane, which received a controversial £900,000 makeover last year.

5. Last year, a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) examined how firms were awarded contracts — including many without competition — worth £18bn to secure essentials such as PPE equipment in the initial months of the pandemic.

The NAO also noted: “A number of contracts were awarded retrospectively, or have not been published in a timely manner.

It is alleged that some of those contracts were awarded to friends and acquaintances of Government Ministers and at least one was for gowns that were not suitable for use.

The list cold go on and on. For example, we could look at the huge amount that was wasted on Test, Track and Trace and the weekly bill for consultants that support this project. 

 Brexit was supposed to deliver £350m per week that could be used to support the NHS. That is what it said on the bus. Of course it was a lie, instead Brexit has cost the country hundreds of millions of pounds.

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Bring back the sun

At this time of year we expect rain, we need rain to top up the reservoirs for the long dry summer to come. However, we haven't had any rain to talk about for 53 days. 

This week we haven't seen the sun either and everything outside is covered in a layer of brown dust. When I look for my car in a car park, I am searching for a petrol blue car not a dirty brown one. 

It seems that we haven't finished with that dust yet. There could well be rain over the weekend that will bring more mud with it.  


Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Vaccines in Bigastro

 The Health Centre was a hive of activity this morning with a procession of people arriving for their Covid jabs. There was even a team  prepared to give an injection outside to those who could not make it inside 

Those who were called needed to hand over their SIP card to allow the staff to record who had been injected. 

Since Spain is only giving the Pfizer vaccine to people over 55, it must have been that one that was being dolled out today. However, France and I believe Germany are now reconsidering their decision to only give the Astra Zeneca vaccine to younger people. It is likely that Spain will follow suit and will also consider delaying the second dose to allow more people to gain some protection. 

We await the phone call with baited breath.

The street is not the place for rubbish

Clearing the rubbish that someone has dumped on Calle Holanda.