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

COVID pass

It is now a requirement to have a COVID pass in restaurants and other venues with a capacity of more than 50 people. 

You can download your certificate and then either upload the PDF file or scan the code on the certificate to produce a digital pass in your phone.

This is the site where you create your certificate (for the Valencia Community) 

You will need your SIP card number, the date when it was issued and your date of birth. 

And this is where you can create your digital pass from your certificate:

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

A reminder

 You can watch Strictly on catch up TV! 

Another Christmas competition

So we had the competition for Christmas trees made from recycled materials. Now we have one for decorating the outside of your house or shop.


Friday, November 19, 2021

All done

 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

Get creative

Over the years, shops in Bigastro have produced some very imaginative window decorations for Christmas. We look forward to seeing the ones taking part in the competition this Christmas.


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

Legal residents

 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.

Coronavirus news

 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

Sods law

 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

Fantastic photos by Fonta and thanks to all those who put together this event.

Bigastro on fire

One of the photos taken by Fonta of the fallas.