Monday, February 06, 2023

The English corner


 

It will apparently have something for both children and adults.

Sunday, February 05, 2023

Join in the party


 

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Proud of her

 Yesterday, my daughter Jemma went on strike. She was the only teacher from her school to do so even though there were other staff in the NEU at her school. 

Why did it come to this?

The Institute for Fiscal Studies have calculated that long-serving and senior teachers – accounting for nearly a third of those working in England – would have earned the equivalent of £50,300 in 2010. But below-inflation wage increases over the past 12 years has meant their pay in 2022 was just £43,700.

Experienced teachers have experienced similar real-terms cuts across the national pay scale, meaning that half of the teaching workforce has had the value of their annual earnings fall by thousands of pounds compared with what they would have earned in 2010, when the Conservative party came into government.

By contrast, average earnings across the whole economy are thought to have increased by about 2% in real terms during the same period. MPs, for example, earn £18,306 more per year than they did in 2010. 

Dwindling pay is one of the main reasons for the government is missing recruitment targets, and why it faces shortages in specialist subjects such as physics, which are forcing schools to rely on non-specialists to plug gaps in classrooms.

It is a fact that nearly a third of teachers  leave the profession within five years of qualifying.

So the issues the government faces are recruitment and retention. 

Did they want to go on strike? Definitely not! My daughter has already lost a day's pay and stands to lose three more days pay if the impasse is not resolved. 

PS She is right behind the bloke in the brown jacket and the one with a bald head - centre right of the photo. 

Friday, January 27, 2023

A date for the diary


 

More work in the town

On Thursday works began at the Centro Social Integrado.

These include, improvement works on the energy efficiency of the building, work on the whole of the roof, laying new waterproofing and insulation as well as improvements to the skylight woodwork. 

With an investment of more than €60,000 thanks to the Deputation of Alicante, the work will last approximately 1 month and will not effect the activities that take place inside.

However, it will  mean there will be limitations on parking in the surroundings, due to the need for the use of cranes.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Helpful advice

In a country and an area where temperatures rarely get so low, the Town Hall has seen fit to post some helpful tips on how to survive the current freeze.


 

Monday, January 23, 2023

My humble suggestions

Local elections are scheduled for May. In preparation for them, political parties will be drawing up manifestos designed to attract voters.  

I have the greatest admiration for the achievements of our current Town Council who have worked hard to improve the town for its citizens. They will surely get my vote in May.   

Many of the latest projects of the current administration have been aimed at making Bigastro attractive to visitors. In a conversation Pam and I had with the Mayor, she expressed a wish to develop the town as a tourist destination. I therefore assume that tourism will feature as part of the Partido Populares manifesto for the upcoming election. 

I understand that it is difficult to achieve a balance between preserving the traditional nature of the town with the 21st Century needs of the people because the two aims are not necessarily compatible.

However, in my experience, towns that are attractive to tourists manage to combine modern facilities with places of historic interest.  

There are, in my opinion, several issues that Bigastro could perhaps address to move it forward make it more attractive to both locals and visitors alike. 

1. The main shopping street currently has at least 12 vacant premises. My impression is that, in the eighteen years I have lived here, there has been a steady decline. I do feel that the commercial hub is now in need of urgent regeneration. 

2. As far as I can tell, there are no places of historic interest nor any places that celebrate the culture of the town. As an example, nearby Rojales has several museums such as the Museo de la Huerta to attract visitors. I believe that Bigastro would benefit from something similar. 

3. Although there are plenty of bars, most of which sell food, there are few places that could be regarded as restaurants celebrating local produce and serving traditional local dishes. 

4. Parts of the town are run down and untidy. For example, the billboards at the top of the Plaza de la Constitucion are an eyesore. The town squares in e.g. Benejuzar and even Jacarilla are more attractive and perhaps set an example for Bigastro to follow.   

5. Facilities that have been developed need to be maintained. As an example, I  notice that some of the information boards for the Ruta Alquibla are now in a state of disrepair. Whilst it is important to develop new projects, it is also necessary to consolidate existing ones. 


It could snow

In England, a forecast for snow brings the prospect of misery to most adults. Children may get excited but their parents view the likelihood of chaos on roads, delays or cancellations in public transport and even the closure of airports as not something to look forward to. 

Here in the Vega Baja, few have seen snow in any quantity. They go out for day trips inland or to the Sierra Nevada to play and have fun in the snow. To local Spaniards it is a novelty not to be missed.

The weather at the moment here is cold, very cold, especially at night. There is also the possibility of some rain which might mean it could snow. This is getting forecasters and elements of the public excited. 

Of course snow does transform the landscape and blankets out the imperfections of run down buildings. Too much though and those that are looking forward to a white blanket covering everywhere will soon change their minds. There are no snow ploughs nor depots stocked with grit. Admittedly there is plenty of salt but that is earmarked for Northern Europe.

Those who have endured hazardous journeys on snow covered roads, who have been cut of for days from essential supplies, trudged for hours through ankle deep snow to get to work or waited hours for a bus that doesn't arrive would prefer a return to normal Spanish weather.



Friday, January 20, 2023

Brace yourselves

Who on earth said that we don't need the winter fuel allowance here in Spain? Just look at the temperatures for next week. Twenty degrees in the daytime is bad enough. When it drops to 13 and 0 at night, then it is damn cold. 

 


Thursday, January 19, 2023

Flying the flag

 Was it really way back in February 2019, almost four years ago,  that the Lady Mayor first lead a party of bigastrense around the Ruta Alquibla? This was a major project designed to attract tourists to the town. 

There are three sections to the route; the “El Casco” section which takes you around the historic centre of the town, the “Huerta” route which takes you around the market garden and “La Pedrera” which takes you around the recreational area of the old stone quarry. 

All along the routes there are information boards that describe the significance of your location.  Upon completion of the walk, you will have learnt an awful lot about the history of the town, the ecology of the area, the agricultural significance of the Vega Baja  and some of the traditions of Bigastro. 

The Mayor, her second in command and the Councillor for Culture are currently at the FITUR exhibition in Madrid continuing to promote the town as a tourist destination. 

For this year, the theme is the traditional crafts of the town which they explain are in danger of being forgotten. 

In order to keep them alive, at least in people's memories, they are presenting the  new cultural and sports tourism project - the first "outdoor museum of traditional trades in the region of the Vega Baja"

It will be a 2 km long urban route that that will have 20 murals, designed by the local painter Olga Navarro, depicting trades that were local to the region. Here is a taster to whet your appetite.



Tuesday, January 17, 2023

The last straw

During my 34 year career as a teacher I only went on strike twice, once whilst I was a member of the NAS/UWT and once as a member of the NUT.

For teachers, strike action is very much a last resort – not something that they take lightly. 

Now though, fed up with being fobbed off year after year, teachers have voted to take action this year. This is not just about pay, it is about funding for education that has been eroded over the years.  Schools increasingly have to depend upon PTAs to pay for essential resources. That's fine in areas where parents are well off but not so good in deprived areas. 

In the NEU 90.44% out of 53.27% of its members voted to strike. Over 90% of NAS/UWT members also voted to strike but unfortunately they failed to reach the required 50% of  members voting.

Although NEU members will be striking for 7 days during February and March, individual schools will only be affected on 4 of them. 

  • Action will start on the 1st February when 23,400 schools in England and Wales will be affected. 
  • On the 14th February just schools in Wales will be affected.
  • The 28th February it will be the turn of schools in Northern, North West, Yorkshire and The Humber regions.
  • On 1st March it will be schools in East Midlands, West Midlands and Eastern regions turn. 
  • The 2nd March schools in London, South East, and South West regions that will be targeted. 
  • Finally, on the 15th and 16th March, all schools in England and Wales will see strike action.

Unsurprisingly, Downing Street have called on the unions to call off any strike.

No 10 said that teachers should not strike and inflict "substantial damage" to children's education, especially after so many missed out on schooling during the pandemic. 

Schools have been told they can use volunteers to stay open. I sincerely hope no headteacher is foolish enough to try and replace teachers with untrained and unvetted members of the public. I also hope that members of other unions do not volunteer to cover for their absent colleagues. 

Acronyms:

NUT = National Union of Teachers

NAS/UWT = National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers. 

PTA = Parent Teacher Association

NEU = National Education Union

Saturday, January 14, 2023

On a positive note

 As I have said, the majority of projects in the town brought huge benefits. 

It is great news that schoolchildren at the Infant School La Paz now have their own  dining room. 

Antonio Meseguer says "they have been works that have involved a great effort, since the administrative procedures external to the City Council were lengthened, and that together with the school management and the parents, the objective set for Bigastro has been achieved".

The dining room which will serve 50 children and cost more than 300,000 euros to build. is now a reality. No longer do children have to transfer to other centres for their lunchtime meals. 

The mayor of Education also says that they will improve the state of the patio and the roofs, mainly to improve the air conditioning and the general well-being of the schoolchildren.

Well done Antonio for all the work you have done to secure funding for this worthwhile project and for the many others that have made great improvements to our town. 

Not done yet

The Councilor for Urban Planning and the Environment of Bigastro has detailed plans for four more cycle lanes in the town:

  • 1,005 meters of bike lane on the access route to the La Pedrera area.
  • 650 meters of bike path on Avenida Europa to the Colegio San José de Calasanz.
  • 785 meters of bike lane from the Auditorium to the municipal sports centre.
  • 465 meters of bike lane from the Health Centre to Vereda Lo Guardamuro, to connect the urban area with the orchard

Let's  hope that the cycle path to La Pedrera does not cause more problems to add to those caused by the roundabout which connects the road into town with the road up to the Pantano.  Goodness knows how many times those green bollards on the roundabout have been squashed by vans and lorries trying to get through. 

Your right to vote

 As you probably all know, in order to vote in the municipal elections here you have to be on the electoral register. Note that, as foreigners, we do not have the right to vote in either Regional or General elections in Spain. 

Every four years you should get a form to complete which you then post back. The Town Hall phoned Pam to check that we had received our forms and most important, we had returned them. They also asked me to check with others on our estate that they had received theirs. 

Of course, who you vote for is up to you.  The important thing is to exercise your franchise otherwise you could end up with a Council that you do not want. 

Whether there will be a special meeting for us this time, I cannot say. There are fewer British residents on our estate now. So a meeting for the Spanish residents might be more appropriate. We shall see.   

A good idea?

 As someone who cycled for many years, I know the dangers facing cyclists on the open road. One of them is cars, vans or worst still lorries passing close by.  The draft can be unsettling  and put you at risk of falling off. The problem is most acute on fast busy roads or in congested town centres.

I have to say that the majority of Spanish drivers are very good when passing cyclists. They give a wide berth  - crossing into the opposite lane if necessary. 

The most recent measure introduced to protect vulnerable cyclists from passing vehicles is the cycle lane. 

Towns and cities have embraced the idea of cycle lanes with gusto, often to the ire of motorists. It must be very frustrating to lose a passing lane on a busy road to cyclists only to find they are nowhere to be seen. 

THE NEW CYCLE LANE IN BIGASTRO

I assume that money, targeted to the construction of cycle lanes, was available from the regional government. Bigastro made a bid for a share of it and they were successful. 

The plan was to build the lane on the right hand side of Calle Joaquin Moya Martinez, one of the routes out of the town that takes you to the CV-95 in the direction of Torrevieja. 

There is already a short cycle lane on Calle Apatel that was built whist the Socialists were in power using Plan E money from the Government. Its usefulness though was negated by the fact that it only reached as far as Calle Andalucia. I can't say that I have seen anyone actually use that cycle lane. 

The new cycle lane was to be a more ambitious project. It was going to be wider, separated from the road with kerb stones and painted blue to make its presence clear. A similar cycle lane was constructed running alongside the CV-945 from just outside Los Montesionos to the CV-905 Crevillente-Torrevieja road. 

There are differences though between these two projects:

1. The CV-945 is a busy road with heavy traffic in both directions particularly at peak times. At those times it was impossible to pass cyclists giving them a wide berth.

2. There are a number of cyclists who use the route on a regular basis. In fact, you often see groups of cyclists riding together in a mini peloton. 

On the other hand:

1. Calle Joaquin Moya Martinez is only relatively busy at peak times. Without carrying out a traffic survey I can't say for sure but I'd guess the volume of traffic at any time is much less than that on the CV-945. 

2. Although there are a fair number of cyclists in Bigastro, I rarely see them in numbers on the roads into and out of the town. 

Of course none of this would matter if  Calle Joaquin Moya Martinez was a wide road in the first place. Following the construction of the cycle lane it is now much narrower. If you have to face a lorry coming in the opposite direction, it will be a tight squeeze. Two lorries going opposite ways would be practically impossible.  

The vast majority  of the projects that this Council have carried out have brought great improvements to the town. However, I'm not altogether sure that this is one of them. 

Friday, January 13, 2023

The big plan

WORK ON THE URBAN DYNAMIZATION AND REGENERATION PROJECT OF  BIGASTRO COMMERCE STARTS

This week, work has commenced on this great project that we started 5 years ago. A project that, as we indicated a few days ago, has been the best rated in the Valencian Community and eighth in Spain. With a grant obtained from European Next Generation funds and the Alicante Provincial Council of almost 1,250,000 euros.

The works will last about 4 months and will cover Calles Moreal, Antonio Gálvez, La Acequia, Retirees, 1º de Mayo and San Pascual as well as the entire Huerto del Cura park, which is going to undergo a great change.

The objective set is to improve road safety, accessibility, increase the children's play area, increase the shadow area, improve areas for parking, loading and unloading for commerce, and turning the Huerto del Cura park into a large square where the passage of vehicles will be reduced, achieving a low emission zone.

These works are going to mean an important change, also in the entire street network of the urban area, where, together with the mobility plan, we will see changes in the directions of the streets, beginning with traffic tests in the coming months.

The project will also include the placement of intelligent parcel collection areas for the citizen, reducing the impact of the passage of courier vehicles. Placement of re-vending machines to motivate citizens to recycle and  promote local business with coupons and the creation of a free digital platform for citizens and businesses that will serve as a virtual showcase.

The Council are aware that the works will involve a lot of inconvenience, in addition to continuous street closures. Any urgent need such as removals, the City Council will process all the steps so that they can be carried out.

In the same way, everyone interested in knowing about this project is invited to approach the City Hall to be informed.

PS I do hope we have a re-vending machine at the entrance to La Pedrera. After all, we do seem to fill the bottle bank on a regular basis which might say something about the drinking habits of the residents here!



Wednesday, January 04, 2023

On their way


 

Sunday, January 01, 2023

We start with hope

After the Covid years, we'd hoped that 2022 would be much better. 

In many ways it was. We got to see our family at the wedding of Andrew and Farah in Chester, our family came over in August and then our friends Hugh and Angela visited us in September. 

There were however some low points. Pamela was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis which meant we had to cancel our family holiday to Funchal. She then had a week in hospital with pancreatitis which turned out to be caused by a cyst on her pancreas (thankfully benign). 

Tragically, our wonderful neighbour, Eladia, passed away suddenly in November. We miss her dearly especially at times when we would normally be together. 

However, we start the New Year with hope in our hearts that 2023 will bring joy, good health and peace to us and to you all.