Monday, January 30, 2006

Like losing your right arm

Friday afternoon the Internet connection went down. Later we found out why when we recieved two text messages from Wi-Surf. The first told us that their satellite provider had ceased trading the second that they would try to find an alternative provider ASAP. The sceptics suspect that it may be Wi-Surf themselves who have ceased trading. We sincerely hope not because that would put us back to square one.

Sods law tells you that this will happen when you need your internet connection. It rained all day Friday becoming heavy in the afternoon. Saturday we had heavy rain all day. Sunday was dry but very cold. In fact there was snow on the top of the mountains that we can see in the distance. So an ideal time to stay in and do some research on the net. We don´t know when we will have a connection back but it will probably be when the weather has improved.

To pile on the misery we had a power cut on Saturday morning which lasted an hour followed by two shorter power cuts later in the day. We don´t know what caused them but we do know that the whole of Bigastro was cut off. There was a very short power cut yesterday which seems to have affected some people but not others.

The weather at the moment is very cold with a strong wind making it feel even colder. The sky is mainly blue though and the sun is shining so hopefully we will get some better weather later in the week. Looking at the snow that has covered most of the rest of Europe we count ourselves lucky. At least here in Spain the snow is confined to the mountain regions.

Friday, January 27, 2006


Yesterday we went to San Miguel to get some cards and some paperbacks for Pam. Then we went down to try and find Villamartin Plaza. This is the third time we have been down to the area to find the Plaza

That whole area from the coast upwards towards San Miguel is one huge building site. Some of the developments are very smart and well finished with extensive green areas, pools and leisure facilities. Sadly though a lot of the urbanisations are made up of row after row of the same style house. Lots and lots of little boxes. In the end we gave up and found a café to have lunch.

On the way back we decided to take a detour to a small place called Rebate which is best known for its restaurant. The contrast could not have been more marked. The road to Rebate from San Miguel twists up and down hill through the most beautiful wooded countryside. The greenery of this area is in marked contrast to the land which stretches from Torremendo to Orihuela which is mostly planted with orange groves. Most of the trees are pines but set amongst them are plots of olives and almonds which are just coming into blossom. Dotted along the road are huge fincas the most spectacular of which has its own golf course. The views that finca enjoys are breathtaking.

When we reached the main road we turned towards Torremendo and followed the Bella Vista route around the Embalsement. The huge blue lake is still low reminding us that we still need a lot of rain to provide water for the summer months.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


The hardest part of our weekly shop is finding the meat that we want. First off we had to learn the different names that they give to meat.

Carne is a general description for meat – it could be anything.
Tenera is bovine calf meat
Vacuno is meat from a bull
Cerdo is pork
Lomo is a fillet usually of pork
Pollo is chicken
Conejo is rabbit used in paella
Cordero is lamb
Pavo is turkey  
Jamon is ham

Then we had to find the cuts. A lot of the meat is cut thin for frying rather than grilling. It is also very difficult to find joints of meat to roast except at English butchers. There is a lot of pork and chicken but very little lamb and surprisingly not a lot of beef. The pork is excellent but cut too thin for the BBQ. They seem to sell mostly every part of a chicken including the feet which we imagine are used to make stock. At Christmas the shops had suckling pigs which they spit roast and of course the cured hams but no turkeys. In the supermarket the rabbits are skinned and vacuum packed but in the market they are sold live to fatten up for the table.

Of course fish is plentiful, of excellent quality and well priced. Perhaps we should eat that instead.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Meltdown Mob

Re my item from the 18th January about the 38 tonne steel sculpture that has gone missing from storage in Madrid. Well it looks like this could be an international problem.

Item today in the English press:-

POLICE are hunting a gang dubbed “The Meltdown Mob” — believed to have stolen up to TWENTY metal statues from public places. Their latest haul was revealed yesterday as part of a £600,000 bronze sculpture, The Watchers. It comes just four weeks after the mob’s biggest coup — the £3million Reclining Figure stolen from the Henry Moore Foundation in Hertfordshire.

The Watchers, by artist Lynn Chadwick, has stood at Roehampton University in South-West London since 1963. But on January 10 this year, the 7ft-tall right-hand was hauled from its concrete plinth, probably by a rope tied to a lorry.

Abnormal Weather

We were watching the weather reports on Meteo, the Spanish TV weather station, last night. In the section they call “Observedores” they showed pictures of Gran Canaria being lashed with rain. Then this morning our friend John sent us a PowerPoint presentation of the weather they get in Versoix near Geneva City, Switzerland.

You'd need a few cans of de-icer to get that car going.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Rio Segura

More than five thousand tons of sediment, the equivalent of 500 football pitches, has been removed from the Segura river.

23 workers have started a maintenance and preservation programme of the channel of the Segura river in section II, the 67 kilometers between the Contraparada (Murcia) and its ending in Guardamar (Alicante). They have removed a total of 12 vehicles and 16 animal corpses, mainly sheep, but also pigs and large dogs.

No wonder the river stunk like a sewer as it passed through Orihuela. Probably added to the flavour of the oranges from the trees that were irrigated by it though.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Coming out?

The true power of the pink pound was revealed today with the publication of a survey of gay men and women's earnings suggesting they outstrip the straight salary by up to £10,000 a year.

Women have officially joined the pink pound economy and some of Britain's biggest companies are ploughing money into the gay market, researchers said. There are now an estimated £70bn pink pounds earned and spent in the UK every year.

Gay men in full-time jobs earn on average £34,200 a year, compared with the national average for men of £24,800. Lesbians earn £6,000 more than the national average for women, take two more holidays a year and spend £400 a month on credit cards, according to the survey of 1,118 readers of Diva and Gay Times by the marketing consultancy Out Now.

I am assuming that they don’t earn more because they are gay so why should this be? Are they more ambitious or more intelligent? Do they present themselves at interviews in a better way? I read an article which suggested that gay men exude a scent which other gays can detect. Perhaps being gay is the modern equivalent of being a mason. When I was a mason it was always suggested that secret handshakes were the way to gain promotion. In my experience that was not true. Possibly now it is the after shave you wear that does the trick.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Spanish bills

The system in Spain for paying utility bills and taxes is quite different to that in the UK. Having set up a direct debit the money is taken from your account and then sometime in the future you get a bill in the post. The bill, when it arrives, is of course in Spanish and can therefore be difficult to decipher.

Everyone on the estate had 80 euros taken from their bank accounts by the water company Aguaest. We all assumed that this was for the connection charge but apparently it may not be. Rumour has it that we all moved off builder’s water supplies in September but because no meters had been installed they couldn’t determine how much each bill should be.  The suggestion is that the total cost of water to the estate has therefore been divided by the number of houses giving each of us an equal bill. If that is true then the people who just have holiday homes here will not be best pleased to be subsidising those of us who are here permanently. We won’t know though until we get a bill.

In fact whenever people meet socially the main topic of conversation apart from the glorious weather and their recent illnesses are utility bills. Although the overall cost of living here is much cheaper than in England the cost of gas, electricity and water isn’t. A bill for 150 euros for electricity for two months has come as a  big shock for some people. So much so that most of the outside lights that used to be on when we were on builder’s supply are now turned off. Ah well that’s Brits for you.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Proved right

Three new people joined our Spanish class last week. As a consequence we went back to the start of the book to allow these people to catch up. The teacher sensed Pam and my frustration and asked us whether we wanted to join the second year class. Yesterday was the first lesson we had in our new class. Of course we knew the people we were working with because they were all from Villas Andrea.

In the first year class we had people who would skip lessons for weeks and then turn up out of the blue not knowing where we were up to. There were only a couple of members who would do the homework properly. In fact many hadn’t been able to get the class book to work in so couldn’t do the homework at all. Worse still we had a few people who would start an argument with the teacher. Some of them attend classes with a different teacher who obviously taught things which contradicted the work we were doing in class.

In our new class everyone has the book. They do the work in advance without having to be told to do so. Nobody argues with the teacher and so the pace of the lessons is much faster. At the end of our first session we felt that we had achieved a lot more than we did in most of the lessons with the other class.

It is interesting to see the situations that we faced throughout our working lives from the other side. We have always said that the quality of a lesson is determined more by the class than the skills of the teacher. The low level disruption in our first class could have been enough to make our very good teacher look average.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Not in my garden

A leading Spanish museum has admitted it has lost a massive steel sculpture which weighs 38 tonnes.
The Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid bought the huge Richard Serra sculpture in the 1980s at a cost of more than $200,000.
The museum says that in 1990 it put the sculpture in a warehouse belonging to a company that specialises in storing large-scale artwork.
But when it sought to put the sculpture back on display a few months ago, no-one knew where to find it.

Too rich to have brains

Selfridges is offering iPod classes at £65 for 40 minutes.
The one to one tutorial, aimed at revealing and demonstrating all the features of Apple's massively successful digital music player to the impossibly rich, lazy or stupid, is also available at home for an extra fee.
Available initially in Selfridges' flagship Oxford Street store, students of its 'iPod Survival' class will be able to hear the mocking laughter of more enlightened iPod users propping up the Genius Bar in the Apple Store just around the corner in Regent Street, where such advice is offered free.
The Apple Store runs a lunchtime 'iPod and iTunes workshop' most weekdays.
Selfridges also runs a SpeedPod service, for iPod customers that just haven't figured out iTunes either. The service offers a while-you-wait transfer of music from CD to the iPod.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Ambiguous genitals

The Guardia Civil of Castellon has decided to re-admit to the Corps one of its members after he underwent a sex change operation.
The former Jose Carlos Romero had been declared as "unfit for service" and dismissed from the Corps. Now, as Alba Romero, she has been re-admitted and will serve in a mechanized unit of the Guardia Civil.
Whilst stating that "this was a great day for me" to be reinstated, she added that she considered it totally justifiable to spend some 30,000 Euros on a sex change operation that finally ended with an operation in July of 2004.
She had originally been dismissed from the Corps for having "ambiguous genitals" according to the Guardia Civil Association AUGC.

Monday, January 16, 2006

No more coffee

I found this article in the Times

COFFEE is responsible for as much as a third of daily consumption of the cancer-causing chemical acrylamide, research by the United Nations has found.

The study reveals that coffee may give those who drink it anything from 13% to 39% of the acrylamide they consume — only chips and crisps are responsible for greater quantities on average.

Acrylamide is produced during cooking, particularly high-temperature processes such as frying and roasting. Some of the highest levels are found in chips, crisps, biscuits and bread, but it has now emerged that roasting coffee beans also produces significant amounts.

The research does not assess the health risks of acrylamide, but a separate series of studies is under way to investigate this. One of the largest studies is a European Union project looking at possible links between the chemical and breast cancer.

So alcohol will addle my brain and coffee will increase my risk of cancer. Thankfully oranges are very cheap here in Spain - I think I'll try freshly squeezed juice unless someone knows about any potential dangers that orange juice poses.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Another vino tinto please

I read an article in that venerable journal “The Sun” about alcohol. The lead sentence was “BRITAIN is in the grip of a booze crisis with more than a QUARTER of adults hooked on drink”. I couldn’t find a similar article on the Guardian nor the Times websites so I can’t say whether the problem is at the endemic or pandemic stage. Nor could I find any information that would corroborate the figure of  8.2m Brits with alcohol related disorders.

The article went on to describe the effects that alcohol has on you. Destroying the liver was high on the list. We are all acutely aware of the George Best case although I understand it was not his second liver that broke down and eventually caused his death. The one that most concerned me though was the loss of brain cells. The article suggested that every alcoholic drink you had killed off brain cells which I assume were then gone never to be replaced. So I checked on the NHS site and there sure enough fifth on the list is alcoholic dementia.
  1. liver disease (cirrhosis of the liver),

  2. alcohol-related anaemia and nutritional disease,

  3. chronic calcifying pancreatitis,

  4. heart muscle damage (cardiomyopathy), and

  5. alcoholic dementia.
Whether this is a temporary condition or a permanent addling of the brain wasn’t made clear on the NHS site. I must investigate this further. All the cheap red wine that we consume out here in Spain not to mention the brandy that follows must make me even more vulnerable to the ravaging effects that the Sun described. I don’t want to end up in a few years time a babbling idiot unable to function properly so I might just have to cut back. Not necessarily a bad thing because according to Pamela I snore badly after too much brandy. I dare say her lack of sleep is more debilitating than my boozing.  

Friday, January 13, 2006

Over to England

My this is going to be an expensive year for flights!

March we are in England for Pamela's parents Diamond Wedding.
Then she is back in April for a hospital appointment.
July we have a wedding to attend.
Total cost of flights so far 801.25euros.

Pamela still has an appointment in October to book for.

If you are looking to invest some money - Jet2.Com would be good.

PS the flights back are always dearer than the flights out and the airport taxes at Manchester are twice the price of the Alicante/Murcia taxes.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Panto pic

The five year olds who came yesterday loved the chase scenes between El Lobo and myself and El Lobo and Caperucita Roja. They also enjoyed shouting "El Lobo", "El Lobo" during the scene where the wolf moves from tree to tree behind Caperucita Roja. The two guys at the top were scene shifters - don't ask me why they are in the picture!!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Well the pantomime opened to rave reviews.

Bigastro Bugle “The best performance of Caperucita Roja Bigastro has seen this week.”
Torrevieja Tribune “This company should tour – preferable to a country far away like Iraq.”
Alicante Almanac “The actor playing Abuelita might have only had four lines but he delivered them with gusto.”

The three and four year old children from the school loved the performance particularly the chase scenes. The adults who came with them congratulated us – perhaps more for our acting than our command of Spanish. Tomorrow we have the rest of the four year olds and the five year olds to entertain.

Even the DVD I made from the video I took of the dress rehearsal turned out quite well. It will remind us of the madness we set out to achieve.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Wedding customs

Custom in Spain is to provide newly weds with everything that they need before the wedding. Any guests that haven’t bought the couple a present will give them money on the day. It saves a fortune on wrapping paper and avoids duplication.

Our Spanish teacher, who is getting married in April, arrived for the lesson yesterday in a brand new BMW. She explained that it had been bought for her by her brother and sister in law as a wedding present. We were wondering as a class what to buy her for the wedding. We now know not to buy her a car. Of course, back in England most couples get toasters and kettles. If they are lucky the close relatives might get them something larger like a washing machine or a cooker. Thankfully for these people families are a lot smaller than they used to be.

Another custom is for all the guests to pay for their own meal at the reception. Just as well because there can be over 200 people at a wedding in a small town like Bigastro.

Monday, January 09, 2006


These guys would be better going fishing. At least that way they'd stand a better chance of a catch.

Is it just me or do others get emails which purport to be from banks and other institutions asking them to go to a web site and confirm their details?

The first ones were supposedly from the Halifax. These were quickly followed by the same message from Barclays and Nat West. When you don’t even have an account with the bank in question that is a pretty strong clue that the email is bogus. The other strong clue is the form of English which indicates that they are possibly coming from an Eastern European source. If I had followed the instructions and gave them my account details and passwords they would have cleared my balance as fast as I could blink.

The next mail was supposedly from EBay. This scam is well documented on EBay sites. Again the idea is that you go to a web site and confirm your details with similar consequences.

The latest one was well crafted and genuinely looked to have come from PayPal. It even had a sidebar warning me about email scams. Sadly for the perpetrator the message was in the wrong language for my account. The web address though was the best giveaway. Almost right but with a .us at the end.

Of course this is nothing new. When we were selling Pam’s car on the Internet we got lots of emails from people who were buying cars just like hers on behalf of Saudi Arabian clients. They didn’t want to see the car. Nor did they want to haggle the price. The cheekiest one told us he would send a bankers draft for more than we were asking. His idea was that we should give his agent the balance between the bankers draft and the asking price. Not only would we loose the car but a few thousand pounds into the bargain.

I wonder how many people actually do get caught by these scams?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Rainy Days

Yesterday it rained for most of the day. That gave us a great opportunity to watch the rest of the DVDs that I got for Christmas and my birthday. We had already watched Jimi Hendrix Live at Woodstock, Cream Royal Albert Hall and the Live Aid 4 disc set. What was left was Live8 4 disc set from July 2nd last year.

If you asked me which was my favourite it would have to be the Cream concerts at London closely followed by the Jimi Hendrix set at Woodstock.

Cream were all too short lived as a band. I never got to see them although I did watch the Farewell concert on television a few years ago. This re-union concert brings back Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker for four nights in May. The DVD set showcases the best performances of each song from those nights. Of course they are all much older and wiser men now and have had plenty of time to hone their skills. So as you might expect the quality of the recording is excellent. Most important though they look really pleased to be back together.

Watching the Jimi Hendrix set is amazing when you consider how long ago Woodstock was. The sound has been mixed by Jimi’s original engineer in 5.1 and 2.0 stereo which means that it is as good as you would get from a concert recorded now. The DVD shows the full uninterrupted set that Jimi played in its original sequence. As a bonus there is a never before seen performance of “Hear My Train A Comin”.

Live Aid and Live8 were of course great concerts with some memorable highlights. When you get to Disc 3 of Live8 Pink Floyd are re-united to play five of their best numbers starting with “Speak To Me” and finishing with “Comfortably Numb”. At Live Aid, Freddie Mercury and Queen have the Wembley audience eating out of their hands.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

No luck at all

Our neighbour is one of those people for whom everything seems to go wrong. First of all they moved him from the plot that he bought and gave him a new location for his house. He tells me that they did this twice. I just wonder how he ever managed to find his house once it was built.

Then he built a conservatory at the front. When they came to connect him to mains gas the conservatory was covering the ventilation ducts. Either he continues to use bottled gas or he has to have a hole knocked through the wall of his conservatory.

He paid 8000 euros for air conditioning that barely kept the house cool in summer and now in winter is struggling to warm the place. The company that installed the system have been back four times. Each time it is the same man who doesn't speak any English. He just fiddles with a few settings and then goes away. I found him a local company who speak English. The serviceman who called yesterday has improved matters a great deal but told him that he thought the ducting in the ceiling was too large. There is not a lot he can do about that!

What is getting him down more though is the pool he had built at the front of the house which has taken ages to complete. Finally he got the electrics sorted out and the waterfall to his liking and filled it only to find there is a leak. When we say a leak we don't mean a small hole. He ran the pump overnight only to find he'd lost two foot of water by the morning. Let's hope it can be sorted out easily because he doesn't deserve all this bad luck.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Christmas is over

The 6th of January, 12th night, is time to pack all the lights and the trimmings away. Although it is sad to put Christmas away, it is good to have the house back to normal. Must remember to test the lights before they go into the boxes. I hate the thought of getting them out next year only to find they don't work.

We still have some of the Christmas cake and shortbread Pam brought back from England when she visited the girls. Sadly though all the mince pies have been eaten. Gone are the days when we could still buy puds at reduced prices for weeks after Christmas. It's bad enough trying to find a pud before Christmas here in Spain.

Today is a national holiday here in Spain. Last night the three Kings came and delivered presents to all the good children and possibly some of the adults. I wonder if they try selling the unwanted ones on Ebay like people do in England these days. Certainly they wait until the last minute to buy presents like they do in the UK. We went to the local supermarket on the 5th at lunchtime when it is usually very quiet. Everybody and his aunty were there. They had even set up a special table so that people could wrap their presents in the free paper that they supply.