Friday, April 30, 2021

Clamping down on dirty dogs

 For years, dog fouling on the pavements and in roads was a major problem for Bigastro. 

I am happy to say my perception is that it is much less of a problem these days. 

A new ordinance will make it compulsory for dog owners to take a bottle of water and poo bags with them when they exercise their pets in the street. The water is to clean up urine and the bag to remove crap. 

Owners who are found guilty of allowing their dogs to foul the street and not cleaning the mess up face fines of up to 3,000 Euros. 

The town has also opened a dog park with all sorts of apparatus to exercise your pet on. 

New paving

 Most bigastrenses seem to avoid using the pavements, preferring to walk in the road. I can remember a lady explaining to us that the pavements were dangerous when they were wet and she was right. 

Throughout the town you find scenes like this where the old pavement is being dug up and replaced by new non-slip paving. Hopefully, when the work is complete, people will have the confidence to use the pavement rather than the road. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The house of cards

 Al Capone was deemed "public enemy number 1". He had a long list of crimes that he could have been prosecuted for. In the end though he was jailed on 5 counts of tax evasion. 

I am not suggesting that Boris Johnson is anywhere near being a criminal in the sense that Capone was but he does have a history of breaking rules which don't suit him. He also has a reputation for being colourful with the truth, for indulging in vanity projects, being cavalier with public money and showing favouritism to those that support him. 

His answer to the current round of allegations against him is that the public don't care about these irrelevant matters, what concerns them is that Britain is doing well in the battle against Covid. 

He may be right and his personal ratings and those of the party did seem to agree with him. However, things are changing. Element of the press and public, who have largely supported him, are finding it difficult to ignore the evidence against him. 

The Electoral Commission has now announced that  they will be look into whether any transactions related to the work on Johnson's  flat, above 11 Downing Street, were properly reported. Like tax evasion did for Capone, Wallpapergate could prove the undoing for Johnson. 

It isn't the first time Johnson has been warned for failing to make declarations of interest. 

In 2019, Boris Johnson breached House of Commons rules by failing to declare a financial interest in a property within the required time limit. He failed to register his 20 per cent share of the Somerset property within the 28-day timetable of acquiring it.

It followed Mr Johnson’s previous apology to the committee just four months before after breaching rules on declared earnings for his book royalties.

To Johnson these issues are a "pyramid of piffle" but to voters they could  point to someone they should no longer put their trust in. Perhaps more important, politicians in his party must be weighing up whether it is safe for them to continue to show support for a PM who may lead to their undoing. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Pity the pool man


After years of cleaning our pool myself, a few years ago we chose to use The Pool People to undertake this task for us.

Last night, the rain brought down all of the Saharan dust that had turned the sky a mucky brown colour.* 
Whereas the continued rain has washed a lot of the dust from the terracing away, that which fell on the pool is now starting to settle and will eventually form a thick brown film on the bottom.  

I have faced the task of cleaning a layer of dust like this from the pool before and it is a pain in the butt. You can only go so far before the filter clogs and you have to backwash it. You then carry on until the filter clogs again. It can take several of these cycles even with a small pool like ours.

To make matters worse, cleaning stirs up the dust and so the whole process needs to be repeated once that dust has resettled. It can take a couple of weeks to get the pool back to clean. 

Of course, there is an alternative; empty the pool, pressure wash the tiles and refill it but that process is just as tedious and more expensive. 

* The rain was hardest between 9pm and midnight. In total there was probably less than 3mm but that was sufficient to carry all that dust down. There is further rain predicted for today and tomorrow but I'm not sure whether that will be "mucky" rain or not. 

The pool man is due to come on Wednesday. For sure it will take him longer than the usual 20 minutes he spends on our pool this week. 

Friday, April 23, 2021

An issue of timing

 These are the changed rules for the period between the 26th April and the 9th of May. 

As you can see, bars and restaurants can now be fully open outside and 30% inside. Like shops they can now be open until 10pm but therein lies the problem because there will still be a 10 o'clock curfew in place. 

In order to comply, customers could leave before 10pm giving themselves enough time to get home but what about the staff? They can't work until 10 and be home by 10. Either the curfew needs to be extended to say 11pm or the closing times have to remain at 9pm. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021


When we lived in Greasby, our closest neighbours were the Parry-Jones family, Hugh, Angela and their children, Richard, Catherine and Andrew. 

Through them we got to meet Hugh's brother, Richard Parry-Jones and then his family. 

When Richard bought the Clock House at Barmouth, we were invited to stay there. We also stayed there for the Millenium celebrations. Richard was a wonderful host and a very accomplished cook. 

Richard and Hugh used to rally a Ford Escort RS which they would bring to the house from time to time. It was then that we realised how important Richard was to the Ford Motor Company.

Indeed, Richard was the engineer responsible more than any other for the driving excellence of 21st-century Fords.

This week we learnt that Richard, who had survived a heart attack and stroke, had been involved in a fatal accident on farmland near his home in Wales. 

Top Gear Magazine, along with local newspapers have paid tribute to Richard. 

"The man known to all as RP-J was a Ford lifer, having joined as an apprentice. His first big project was as chief engineer on the Mondeo, launched in 1992. 

RP-J was a brilliant dynamics engineer, a superb communicator, a motorsports fan and an early advocate for the need for the car industry to reduce CO2. His working life was a demonstration of how one individual really can have an influence over this whole colossal industry.

Previous to the Mondeo, Ford’s engineering effort was all about saving money. If in consequence the car’s ride was lumpy and the engine rough and the steering slack, well that was tough luck: they were profitable cars to manufacture and sell.

With the Mondeo, Parry-Jones shifted Ford’s course. He reckoned there would be more money to be made by building better cars that would sell in higher numbers at higher prices and he was right. The success of the Mondeo was followed by work on cars like the Fiesta, the Ka and of course the Focus." 

In his retirement, Uncle Richard as we knew him, virtually rebuilt the Clock House and developed the buildings across the road into a highly successful bed and breakfast business. 

Coes Faen has received many awards and before Covid had a full list of bookings, many of them return visits. No wonder, it boasts innovative technology along with the highest quality of fittings and service.

It is only a few weeks since Richard's first wife died. Following the funeral, Hugh and Richard met up for lunch and a brotherly chat. They made plans for further adventures on their electric mountain bikes. 

Our thoughts are with the family and especially with Hugh who has taken the news badly.  

What to expect

 Following the mass vaccination sessions in Valencia the questions are, "now that we have had our first dose of Pfizer Covid vaccine, are we safe?" and "what can we expect as possible side effects?"

The answer to the first is emphatically, no. 

In fact, there is some evidence  that suggests we could be more vulnerable to infection in the first 8 days as our bodies gradually build up the antibodies necessary to combat the disease. That is partly because some people wrongly believe they are protected as soon as they have their first shot and drop their guard - not wearing masks, neglecting social distancing and mixing more freely with others.   

After those first 8 days our immunity should slowly increase until, by 21 days, the vaccine should be 90% effective.

At 21 days we will have a second dose that tops up and lengthens the effect of the first dose. 

Of course, nobody knows how long the protection will last and whether or not we will need booster shots later in the year to prolong the protection or protect us from new variants.  

Possible Side Effects of the vaccine

It is important to note that not everyone will have side effects. Having them is a sign that the vaccine is working, not having them though does not mean that the vaccine is ineffective.  

In the arm where you got the shot:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling

Throughout the rest of your body:

  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea

These side effects usually start within a day or two of getting the vaccine. Side effects might affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Keep your umbrella handy!

Rain will return and will continue for the rest of the week. It won't rain all day though and the amount will not be sufficient to cause any problems. 

Meeting neighbours

 A strange way to meet your neighbours - at the Pabellon Bernardo Ruiz just outside of Orihuela. 

It obviously was the time for bigastrenses of our age to receive their first dose of Covid vaccine. And so we gathered inside the Sports Hall as one by one we were stabbed in the arm. We then sat for the obligatory 15 minutes to make sure we were OK.  More bigastreneses joined us and, just as they do in the Medical Centre, they found time for a chat.

The operation was very slick and well organised. The only minor issue was finding somewhere to park the car.  

Monday, April 19, 2021

The passage to freedom

 In Britain

At present, people who have had a Covid jab in the UK  receive a vaccination card, and the details go on their medical records. However, the government is now looking at how to allow people to more easily show their Covid status, as "a temporary measure". This could mean a record of whether people have been vaccinated, recently tested negative or have natural immunity after being ill with Covid. In other words a vaccine passport. 

In order to be useful for travel , this would have to be recognised by other countries e.g. the EU. 

Concern has been shown by various groups, including church leaders, who claim that a passport would create a "surveillance state" and a "medical apartheid". So, it is not yet clear whether the UK will issue some form of document that would allow people to demonstrate their Covid status.

We know that the UK has been reluctant to issue any form of national identify card like we have in Spain.  Here, we also carry SIP cards that are used to access our medical records. 

I believe that the cards we carry increase rather than restrict our freedom because they are simple way to prove who we are, our rights of access to services and travel. 

The European position 

Spain, along with other European countries, will forge ahead with Covid-19 vaccine passports, which the European Union is officially calling “Digital Green Certificates”.  These will allow citizens of Europe to enter the country without having to quarantine or take a coronavirus test.  The document will come in the form of a free QR code, will be available by the end of June, and will allow for more people to arrive in the country in a safer manner..

The tourism sector and major companies in the country have voiced some concerns about the new certificate. Each EU state will be able to include its own additional measures. If individual countries opt to add restrictions to mobility – for example, obligatory quarantines after a trip – the usefulness of the Green Digital Certificate will be greatly reduced.

Like in the UK, another of the arguments against this type of certificate is the possible discrimination that could result between people who have been vaccinated and those who haven’t. 

Those who would be at a disadvantage in this way fall into two groups, the ones whose turn has not yet come and the ones who have refused the vaccine. I assume there would be more sympathy for the former than the latter. 

Presumably, both of these groups would still be able to travel but they would have to follow current restrictions regarding testing and quarantining. 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Speeding the process up

Inoculating people at local medical centres was a complicated and slow process that was going to take too long to achieve the aim of protecting large numbers of the population. 

The president of the Generalitat, Ximo Puig, has therefore announced that, from next Monday, a new stage in vaccination process will begin with the start-up of four large vaccination centres in the Valencian Community: the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, the Castellón Auditorium, the City of Light in Alicante and IFA in Elche.

Along with these four, 18 other centres will also will be used such as the ones in Orihuela* and Torrevieja,

The 22 centres will be staffed by more than 1,000 professionals who be able to administer more than 4,000 doses every hour. This plan will allow the inoculation of half a million doses per week.

Vaccination card

Also from Monday, they will begin  delivering a brochure that includes a vaccination card with data on the type of immunization received, the date given and the number of doses. The document will also serve as proof of vaccination for travel and will incorporate recommendations, such as maintaining precautionary measures against covid after vaccination.

The card should not be confused with the vaccination passport that the European Union wants to develop.

Twice as many vaccinations in three weeks

The president of the Generalitat has highlighted that in the last three weeks the number of vaccines administered has doubled, going from 640,000 doses to 1.2 million. "We would like to go faster, but the pace depends on the arrival of vaccines," he explained.

Next week more than 185,000 doses will be administered. The vast majority (68,000) will be first doses for people aged 70 to 79. In addition, 55,000 people in that age group will receive their second dose. 16,000 vaccines will be used for second doses for those over 80 years of age along with  highly dependent group and there will be 40,000 doses for the group between 60 and 65 years old.

* The one in Orihuela is where bigastrenses will be inoculated. It is at the Sports Centre on the CV 9242 - Avenida Doctor Garcia Rogel in the Palmeral part of the city. 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Our appointments

 Pam and I have just received messages giving us the details of our appointments for Covid 19 vaccines. 

Pepe was right, we will be vaccinated at the Pabellon Bernardo Ruiz just outside of Orihuela, close to the school where he taught. Our first dose of Pfizer will be next Tuesday and the second dose will be on the 11th May. 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

From sewing to saucepans

Eduardo Navarrete,  the highly acclaimed fashion designer from Bigastro, will be a contestant on the new edition of the RTVE reality show Masterchef Celebrity. 

Like the British version on BBC, the Spanish version chooses contestants from a variety of backgrounds. They are then challenged to produce winning plates of food in a bid to become Masterchef Celebrity Champion.  

We recall that Eduardo returned to compere the catwalk show at the Auditorium Francisco Grau - April 2019. At the end of the show, Eduardo showed us some of the stunning collection he'd earlier presented in Madrid. 

If his food is as interesting as his clothes designs, Eduardo will be a force to be reckoned with. We wish him the best of luck. 

Worth the cost

Whilst Spain as a whole is seeing a rise in cases of Covid 19 with a 14 day rate of 201 per 100,000 people, in Valencia the rate has declined further to 34.9. 

The reason for this is that Valencia has opted to move more gradually than some of the other regions in deescalating measures. By maintaining strict control over the internal capacity of restaurants, early closures of establishments and a lockdown on people's movement in and out of the region, Valencia is so far avoiding the fourth wave of the virus. 

Of course, there has to be a balance. Nobody wants to curb people's freedom any more than is necessary but at the same time we want to see this deadly virus properly under control so that we can return to normality in as safe a way as possible.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The pace quickens

According to El Pais, Spain will be receiving its first shipment of 300,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccines “first thing on Wednesday". In total Spain is expecting five million doses of this one shot vaccine to arrive before the start of summer. The Health Minister said on Monday that the first group in line for the vaccine will be people between 70 and 79 years of age.

According to the latest Health Ministry report, 13.3% of the population in the 70-to-79 age bracket has had at least one dose of the three vaccines now being used in Spain. But changing criteria over the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have created a paradoxical situation. The rate of vaccination in the 60-69 age group is greater than the 70-to-79 group  even though the coronavirus has a more serious effect in older people. This is because the over-80s were the priority group for the Pfizer vaccine (91.4% have had at least one shot) while the under-65s were receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine leaving our age group out in the cold.

My neighbor, Pepe tells me that we should receive our text messages within the next couple of weeks and that it will be at the mass vaccination centre in Orihuela where we will be called for our jabs.


One of our English neighbors, who is 79, tells me that he and his wife had their first jab last week. They received a phone call at about 10am from their doctor who told them to go down to the Centro Salud there and then. I assume the Centre had vaccine left over and rather than waste it, they called the next people in line. Normally, you would get a text message with a date. They both had the Pfizer version and will have their second dose on the 27th. 

Is it worth it?

 So you are desperate to go to England to visit family, we all are. 

First off  you need to take a Covid 19 test no more than 72 hours before you fly. One of our neighbours told me he had problems with this. He said that coordinating timing of flights and tests was tricky - you arrange one only to find you can't then arrange the other to fit in. 

Before you can fly to the UK you also need to complete a passenger locator form for the UK government and you need to book and pay for your home testing for days two and eight of your 10 day quarantine. 

When you arrive in the UK, border officers will be responsible for everything: checking your passports, checking your test result, your tests in the UK  are booked and checking your passenger locator form. In some cases this has led to long delays and queues.

Since Spain is not currently on the 'red' list of countries, once you are in England you can quarantine with family and they are free to come and go from their home as they like. However, you cannot leave the house and have to stay put until 10 days have passed and you've got your day-eight PCR result back clean. Expect to be called regularly to check that you are abiding by the rules. You also have to record a video of yourself taking the PCR tests.

Having completed your stay, you then need to go and get a PCR tests for your return to Spain and of course you have to pay for all of these tests which will cost considerably more than the flights. 

Restrictions in the UK about leaving mean that you will be taking advantage of the exception that you are a non UK resident who is ending a temporary visit. There is a form to fill in for this. 

At check in, you will have to present this form along with your passport and TIE card. The rules say that you don't have to have a TIE card; the old green form/card or even proof of application for residency should suffice but there are reports of people being denied boarding without the new plastic card. 

On your arrival back to Spain, you will pass through passport control where they will check your documents including the passenger locator form and a separate control where they will check your PCR test result.  

The good news is that you are then clear to go, no need to quarantine in Spain and no further tests are required. 

NB One positive test throughout the process changes all this and makes it infinitely more complicated. Also, if the situation changes and infections rise in either country, you will likely find yourself stuck in limbo with just a few hours notice. 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Red days

 Scout John was caught out this morning when he went into the town to post a letter only to find the Post Office shut. The reason was it is San Vincente Day today, a holiday that is peculiar to parts of Valencia. As John found out, it is not a fixed date. It is always the Monday after Easter Monday  Last year it was on April 20th which is when he probably thought it would be this year. 

Here are the dates for this year of the so called "red" days. It is important to note though that, when a holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, it is normal to take a weekday off in lieu.

January 1 (Friday): New Years Day.

January 6 (Wednesday): Epiphany of the Lord (Magi)

March 19 San Jose - Father's day 

April 2 (Friday): Good Friday.

April 5 Easter Monday

April 12 ( Monday) San Vincente - local to parts of Valencian region.

May 1 (Saturday): Labour Day.

June 24  (Thursday) San Juan 

October 9 (Saturday) Valencian Community Day

October 12 (Tuesday) Spanish National Day.

November 1 (Monday): All Saints' Day.

December 6 (Monday): Spanish Constitution Day.

Getting on with the jab


Photo from Vega Baja Digital

Last Friday, between 9am and 8pm. more than 2,000 people were vaccinated with their first dose of Moderna in the Municipal Leisure Centre, Torrevieja. Most were citizens born in 1956 -57. 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

It was a sad day

 Pam and I have said on a few occasions that we hoped nothing would happen to either the Queen or the Duke of Edinburg during the midst of the pandemic. 

After giving  a lifetime of service to Great Britain, we thought it would be tragic if the nation and indeed the world could not pay due respect to them with an appropriate funeral service. It would pile even more misery on to this awful  period in everyone's lives. 

Although there has been a fair amount of scandal and criticism of  some members of the Royal Family  over the last few years, I don't recall any ever been made about Philip apart from the odd gaffe for which we forgive him. 

As we have seen through the TV coverage, Philp's  early life was tough, very tough. 

He served in the Royal Navy with great distinction and then had to give up his promising career when Elizabeth became Queen. He knew that would happen at some point but probably hoped it would not be so soon. 

At a time when men were traditionally regarded as the head of the family, Philip had to take a back seat and follow two steps behind his wife. That must have been hard for him but he never seemed to show it.  

Of course Philip led a life of privilege but he also gave great service and will be remembered for his philanthropic work for young people and the environment. 

We wonder now what the Queen will do. Without her "rock" by her side, will she still want to fulfil her promise to reign for her whole life? I believe and hope that she will continue with other royals taking over many of her more arduous duties. 

Our thoughts are with Elizabeth and other members of the family. 

Monday, April 05, 2021


 I can't begin to tell you how pleased we were to be in the park yesterday for a concert by both the Junior and Senior bands. 

The chairs were all set 2m apart and everyone, bar the musicians playing woodwind and brass, wore masks. 

It was good to be out in the fresh air, listen to some great music and meet up with friends we haven't seen for so long. 

You will find albums of my  photos  in the side bar and here are the links to the recordings I made of the music.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

The Encuentro

 I've gone down to the town most years to watch and photograph the ceremony of the Encuentro here in Bigastro. It is an early call since the procession from the church starts at 7am but well worth while. 

Easter Sunday is the day of resurrection.  The story goes that Jesus arose from the dead this day and the encounter depicts the moment when Mary, who is in grief for her son, meets him and rejoices. 

In recent years the ceremony has been performed in the church rather than in the streets of the town. One year it was raining and so the ceremony was moved and then of course last year it was moved because of Covid restrictions. 

Covid restrictions this year mean that the ceremony has once again been performed in the church. 

That hasn't stopped the traditional fireworks that are set off after the encounter has taken place. I hope they didn't wake you up!

Saturday, April 03, 2021

A clean shiny oven

 I am always wary about recommending work people here on my blog. If someone does a good job for you, it doesn’t automatically follow that they will do a good job for others. We all have different standards and mine might be either higher or lower than yours.

In this case though, I feel confident you will be pleased with the job that Doug does cleaning your oven. 

Doug set up his own business cleaning ovens, a job he says he enjoys. Incidentally, Doug also cleans barbecues, microwaves and extractor fans - all those things we know we should clean regularly but put off because they are messy jobs that we’d rather not do.

So how do you contact Doug? Google Oven Valet, look for him on Facebook, email or even phone him on 654 907 247. He’s based in Benijofar so is pretty local to Bigastro.

PS Doug didn’t ask me to promote him on my blog nor did he offer me a discount for doing so. 

Friday, April 02, 2021



Just look at this photo of the town square in Bigastro, taken in the 80s and posted by Pascual Segura. 

It isn't so much the square itself that is interesting, it is what is and is not behind the church.  That photo was taken possibly less that 40 years ago. 

Be soon I said - be soon

In April, Spain is expecting to receive 1.2 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine each week. These doses alone – not counting the other vaccines available – are enough to fully vaccinate everyone in the 80-and-over age group in just two weeks. This should allow the mass vaccination of the 70-to-79 population to begin from mid-April. Some regions will start inoculating this age group earlier than others, either because they have made more progress in vaccinating the 80-and-over population or are planning to overlap the two priority groups (in Valencia 76.7 % of over 80s have received one dose and 41.4% two doses).

PS Those of a certain age will recognise the title of this post as a catch phrase of Hilda Baker

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Fears for a fourth wave

 There are fears of a fourth wave of Covid 19 in Spain as the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 rises to 152. Read on though because the figures are not consistent across the whole of the country and the rate in Valencia still remains below the critical level.  

Seven territories have an incidence rate above the 150-threshold considered an indicator of high risk: Asturias, Catalonia, Madrid, Navarre, the Basque Country and the North African exclave cities of Ceuta and Melilla. Four regions are very close to this limit: Andalusia, Aragón, Castilla y León and La Rioja. In another five, the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants remains below 100: the Balearic Islands, Castilla-La Mancha, the Valencia region, Galicia and Murcia.

Further to my post yesterday, the Public Health Committee here decided not to change the age limit for the Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine. In other words, it will only be given to those under the age of 65.  An exception was made for essential workers over 65 of which there are very few. 

Interestingly, Germany will only administer AstraZeneca vaccines to people over the age of 60 following new reports of blood clots among younger recipients. France had already made a similar decision on March 19, when it reserved the vaccine for people over 55. 

If you considered these different positions to be valid, then you would not want the Anglo Swedish vaccine at any age. 

I know that some in Britain, including Government Ministers,  believe that Europe is dismissing this vaccine out of spite because of supply issues. However, I'd like to think that European Health Authorities do not take decisions based on politics. Their concerns  may prove to be unfounded by further research but until then it is prudent to not take risks.