Monday, December 31, 2007

Could just be better than Tina's version

As many of my friends know, I am a big fan of Tina Turner. I have to say though that Celine Dion's version of the "The Best" might just be better than Tina's.

Just how hot is she?

Did you give vouchers?

When you haven't got a clue what to buy someone, a gift voucher seems a good idea. It somehow feels less vulgar than sending money.

You tell yourself that the recipient can buy something that they really want rather than the pair of socks or the sweater that you'd normally buy. Vouchers also have the added benefit that you don't need to wrap them and they cost very little to post.

However, many of the £1bn of gift tokens received on December 25 will never be used. The Voucher Association, the industry's trade body, admits that a quarter of them are unlikely to be redeemed. In those cases the shops have had your cash for nothing.

Retailers even gain from the tokens that are cashed in, as customers top them up by an average 40% of their face value and since an average of six weeks pass before a voucher is redeemed, it also serves the the retailer as an interest-free loan.

I can remember our girls getting gift vouchers as presents. Inevitably it would cost us money to top up the ones they used and the ones they didn't use we had to buy off them to use ourselves. It wasn't so bad when they got M&S vouchers but those from shops with a smaller range of goods were a pain in the butt.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

High tech Jesus

The city of Bal Harbour, in Florida, has replaced the stolen figure of Jesus in its belén with one equipped with GPS. They have also placed the nativity scene behind plexiglass to make it secure.

Thankfully Torrevieja has not had to resort to such measures with its belén which is outside the church on Calle Ramon Galud. See my pictures of last year's belén.

Now that's a good idea

The town halls of Pilar de la Horadada, San Pedro del Pinatar, San Javier and Los Alcázares have made an agreement with a car company in Cartagena to provide free transport services to residents in these municipalities on New Year’s Eve. Reportedly each municipality will have several marked pick-up points for these cars located in the town centres to ensure that anyone wishing to travel does not have to take their own vehicle. This agreement has been approved in an attempt to reduce the number of drink-related traffic accidents which tend to occur on this night.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

An interesting question

The euro is strong against the pound which is why the exchange rate from sterling to euros is poor. From a high of 1.5 euros to the pound, we are now looking at 1.36 euros to the pound. So for every 1,000 GBP you transfer at the moment you'd get 140 euros less than before.

The dollar is weak against the pound which is why you can get 1.99 dollars to the pound.

So if I change sterling to dollars and then dollars to euros would that give me a better deal?

The answer is unfortunately no, unless you keep the dollars until the euro weakens. Go to and work it out. In theory you'd end up with the same amount whichever way you exchanged your money. In practice you'd loose because there would be charges on each transaction (the difference between the buying and selling rates)

100GBP = 199.989 USD (1GBP = 199.989USD)
199.989USD = 136.115 EUR (1 USD = 0.680642 EUR)

100GBP = 136.115 EUR (1 GBP = 1.36115 EUR)

The smart thing to do is to only change currency when the rate is good.
Some of the people here took advantage of the 1.5 euros to the pound rate and transferred large amounts at that time.

Even if their money had been in an account earning say 5% interest in the UK, they would still be better off by several hundred euros than someone changing money each month over the last year.

The problem is that you'd have needed a crystal ball to work that out and if the rate had remained stable they'd have lost out.

The strength of the euro is a cause for concern, not just for us, but for anyone trying to sell goods from the Eurozone in other markets. The only reason that the European Central Bank is allowing the euro to remain at these levels is to try and curb inflation below the 2% target.

Have you got your grapes ready?

On New Year's Eve, Spaniards will consume around 1.5 million kilos of fresh grapes.

Why on New Year's Eve? Because they say that eating one grape at each of the 12 chimes of the clock at midnight will bring you good luck for the following year. It's an ancient tradition.

You can of course buy tins of twelve grapes preserved in syrup but if you want fresh ones you need those that have been grown in the Vinalopó.

The areas around Agost, Aspe, Hondón de las Nieves, Hondón de los Frailes, Monforte del Cid, Novelda y La Romana have special microclimates that allow them to keep the grapes fresh into winter ready to be picked for Nochevieja.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Plan for the Pedrera reinitiated

In an extraordinary plenary session, the City council of Bigastro approved the start of an evaluation of  the environmental impact of the urbanisation plan for the Pedrera which was suspended  by the Generalitat in Valencia.

The City  council has already received more than 2.4milllion euros in payment for the  municipal ground and  licenses to build at the Pedrera.  Although the company involved  (Idearco)has not  been able to begin construction, it has publicised the residential complex  and the practice golf course which it intends to build on the auctioned land. 

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The new house

The house that they are building on the corner of Calle Inglaterra and Calle Escocia is not one that you can easily miss. The three roofs may well equal Aurelio's central tower in terms of architectural quirkiness.

I imagine, like with many new buildings, we will get used to it but in the meantime it just looks so big and a little out-of-place in its surroundings!

Express breakfast

Sick of waiting for his toast to be ready, Oliver Newberry has produced the Turbo Toaster for Heinz.

Thanks to two small turbines that impel the hot air towards the surface of the bread, this toaster will produce the perfect slice to accompany baked beans in under a minute. Just think of the advantage of not having to wait for the toast once the beans are cooked.

It's just a pity the thing is so pug ugly!

The girls might even have to work

In an email sent to Fortune magazine, multimillionaire Barron Hilton, the patriarch of the family Hilton, has said that 97% of his 2,300 million dollar fortune will go to charity and not to his granddaughters Paris and Nicky.

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, was created by his father in 1944 and currently donates over 50 percent of its funds to projects outside the USA. For example 60 million dollars was spent providing drinking water in Africa in 1990

With their share of the remaining 69million dollars (estimated at 5milion each), the girls will not exactly be poor but they may have to think about what careers they might pursue.

Actually didn't Paris start a budding career in adult films with "One Night in Paris" a few years ago?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

What did you do on Christmas Day

We had a lovely quiet day. A leisurely breakfast followed by the opening of our presents. We phoned our relatives in England and offered them our best wishes. Later we enjoyed an excellent Christmas dinner. In the evening we sat down to watch one of the DVDs we'd had as a present followed by a film or two on Spanish television. Second time round we understand the storyline of the Da Vinci Code much better.

The last thing on our minds was shopping!

However, the Times reports that more than 3.5 million shoppers – 770,000 more than attended Anglican church services – racked up total online sales of around £53 million in Britain yesterday.

Dozens of the country’s largest chains sidestepped the legal ban preventing their outlets opening on Christmas Day by offering reductions of up to 70 per cent on products for sale on their own websites.

The total sales online were expected to represent a two-thirds increase on Christmas Day sales last year.

Retailers said that the festive shopping spree began at the start of Christmas. Marks & Spencer said that it had been particularly busy during the first hour of its sale from midnight to 1am. The Comet electrical outlet said that it was expecting more than 200,000 visitors to its online store yesterday.

My only excursion online was to send a Christmas email to our friends and to post a couple of messages on this blog. I understand there might be great bargains out there to be had but there has to be more to life than shopping especially on Christmas Day.

Their rabbits are not for paella

The first sex shops in Spain opened in 1980. These were aimed at men with their bookcases of x rated films and shelves of erotic toys. Definitely not a province for women.

Anne Summers opened their first Spanish store in Valencia May 2005. In September 2006 Estefanía Cordova and her sister Gabriela opened Fresas y Chocolate in Alicante. These new sex shops sell all manner of sex toys and exotic lingerie aimed at both men and women.

The peculiar thing is that, according Estefanía, " now it is the men who feel uncomfortable when they enter the store ".

So, the fashion to give a vibrator to enjoy the Christmas celebrations has arrived in the Valencian Community.

I think Pamela preferred the cosy slippers I bought her!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

We are so lucky to have such good neighbours

When we lived in Greasby in the UK we had excellent neighbours (Hugh, Angela and family). Now that we are in Spain we have equally good neighbours both next door (Kay and Ken) and across the road (Pepe, Eladia and Eladia ).

For some time we have been having problems with our Digital Plus TV reception caused by a poor connection to the LNB (the thing that points into the aerial dish). The connector broke when I tried crimping it with a pair of pliers so I've had to improvise since then.

Anyway when I was on the roof yesterday trying to get the signal back, Pepe from across the road must have spotted me and immediately came across to offer assistance.

First he brought his aerial signal strength meter to check the alignment. He quickly replaced the broken connector and got a good signal by aligning the dish. Then he brought his portable television and a digibox to check that we were getting maximum signal strength. Finally he checked the signal in the house to make sure there was no loss in the cable.

So thanks to Pepe we will be able to enjoy TV over Christmas.

I've ordered some silicon grease, self amalgamating tape and a rubber boot for the connector to ensure that the connection doesn't deteriate again; oh and I also ordered a connector to replace the one that Pepe gave me.

Muchas gracias Pepe - you are a star!

Later in the dayKay, from next door, came round with Christmas presents for us along with a couple of her very special home made mince pies which we ate last night. I can honestly say they were the best mince pies we have ever tasted. Kay takes the idea of deep filled to the extreme.

So many thanks to Ken and Kay as well for all that you have done for us during the year and especially for the mince pies!

A Merry Christmas

To one and all.

We hope that Santa has been kind to you and not brought you too many socks.

Enjoy your Christmas dinner and don't get too drunk!!

Lots of love

Pam and Keith


Monday, December 24, 2007

The joy of Christmas

It's supposed to be the Festive Season when people take a break from the problems of daily life. There's not much hope of that  for some unlucky Britons.

Problems for those who chose to get away

Fog blighted the Christmas travel plans of more than 17,000 air passengers yesterday as nearly 140 flights to and from Britain's two busiest airports were cancelled.

Roads in the east Midlands, northern England and Scotland were also affected. A pile-up involving 15 cars and a coach caused gridlock on the M5 near Bristol last night. The motorway was closed in both directions.

Meanwhile it isn't much better for those who chose to stay at home.

Hundreds of thousands of families face bitter disappointment tomorrow because presents bought online have not been delivered.

Failures by internet firms, Royal Mail and private delivery companies have affected a huge range of Christmas gifts including computer consoles, designer goods and children's toys.

More than two million parcels and letters are estimated to have been lost or delayed by Royal Mail alone.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Adobe Acrobat

Each year we produce a newsletter which we send out to friends and relatives at Christmas. Since we have lived here in Spain, the cost of posting cards with newsletters has risen. So for those people on our email list, we send the newsletter in Adobe Acrobat PDF format attached to an email.

Since the Acrobat reader is free and the PDF format is used widely to distribute all sorts of material over the Internet, I would have thought that most people would have it installed on their computers. However, a number of people, who we sent newsletters to, say they couldn't open it even though I chose to publish in Acrobat 5.0 format to ensure backward capability. Ah well the best laid plans of mice and men.

By the way if you are running Windows Vista, especially if you have installed SP1 (the public evaluation copy), you will need to upgrade Acrobat reader to v8.1 because v7 is not compatible. A quick visit to Adobe's web site will enable you to download this latest version.

It's better to be a WAG than a SLAG

The reports from the Manchester United party just get worse and worse. The latest story is about a girl who was "roasted" by five players in an upstairs room. I thought that roasting a bird meant cooking the turkey at Christmas but it seems to have a different meaning these days.

You do wonder just what these girls got out of their night out. The wives and girlfriends were probably not best pleased that their men were out on the town without them but at least they have the benefit of a mansion, a flashy car and designer clothes to show for their relationship. The girls who went to the party ended up with bad hangovers and a tattered reputation as a slag to show for their time with the "stars". Even if they weren't involved directly, they will be branded of guilt by association.

I expect there will be more sordid stories to come out of this event and others like it.

Hi -tech message

Last year the Queen's Christmas speech was broadcast as a podcast for folks to read on their iPods. This year she is going one better by broadcasting on YouTube.

There is already an official Royal Channel set up on YouTube with eighteen video clips available for viewing. It had 1,523 subscribers and had been viewed 49,328 when I just checked it.

On the channel are videos of the first Christmas speech that the Queen made on television along with footage of her accession to the throne, the Queen Mother's wedding and insights into Prince of Wales' duties. All fascinating stuff, delivered with commentaries in impeccable BBC accents.

So no more having to interrupt Christmas dinner to listen to HRH, you can watch and listen to her at leisure.

I just hope the message is as up-to-date as the means to deliver it.

Too late now

The dog across the road, the one down the road at Miguel's and the two at Aurelio's are doing their job of warning off people now.

They barked their head of last night as we came back up the road. Hello dogs - we live here! Why didn't you bark like that when the thieves broke into Pepe's house?

Did it touch you?

I can confirm that we won nothing on the Sorteo de Navidad which was not surprising really since we didn't buy a ticket.

If you did buy a ticket and you want to check if you have won, then go to any of the online papers and enter your number
. You will even find a list of all the winning numbers which I hope you can make sense of.

If you have ticket number 06381 don't bother because I can tell you you are the "fat one".

Saturday, December 22, 2007

It could be you

At nine o clock this morning, the Christmas Lottery 2007 will be drawn. This is big stuff. Alcantinos spend an average of 85.74 euros each on the Christmas lottery. Nationally, Spaniards spend more than 3,000 million on tickets for the draw.

Once the president of the lottery has authorized the beginning of the draw, children from San Ildefonso will take the numbers from the big drum and so the show begins. There is no B rated celebrity pushing a button to start a machine rolling; this is full on glitz. The children actually sing the numbers! In homes and bars throughout the country people will be glued to TV sets hoping that this year it will be their turn to win.

There is more than 2,200 million euros among the 1,787 prizes to be played for between 185 series of tickets, each one of them equipped with three million euros. The second prize is a million and the third is 500,000 euros for each series. The probability of winning (or as the Spanish say touching the fat person) is 1 in 85,000.

The first prize has been won in the Valencian Community on 30 occasions, ten of those wins were in the Alicante province.

Best of luck.

Christmas at the Pedrera

It's right on our doorstep. We can walk there and leave the car at home. Jose is more than keen to make us welcome. Where better to enjoy a bit of festive cheer.

Christmas Eve will be a special night up at the Albergue with a good party atmosphere guaranteed.

Jose tells us that the restaurant will be open Christmas Day - very handy if you burn the turkey and need somewhere to eat fast.

Click on the picture for a larger copy

The big night though is Nochevieja (New Year's Eve) when Jose has planned a special meal at a cost of 40€ per head. There only a few places left so if you fancy it, you need to get up there sharpish to reserve a place.

1st course: a seafood salad
2nd course: peppers stuffed with ham and fungi
3rd course: salmon and esparagus
4th course: a choice of baked sea bass or fillet steak with a mushroom sauce
5th course: strawberry tart and profiteroles - Christmas sweets

a half bottle of red or white wine per person

Finally a glass of sparkling wine with the traditional 12 grapes that you eat on each chime of the clock at midnight for good luck

Friday, December 21, 2007

For the benefit of our Spanish neighbours

  • see the next post

Yorkshire Humbugs
These are peppermint sweets which are traditionally striped in colour. This recipe is for plain ones.
450g brown sugar
150ml water
peppermint essence

Place the brown sugar into a heavy bottomed saucepan.
Heat gently until the sugar has completely dissolved, but do not stir.
Boil to a temperature of 154°C .
When the water has evaporated add a few drops of peppermint essence.
Pour mixture on a slab, using a knife to prevent it running too thin.
Cut into strips, and cut with sharp buttered scissors.
Then wrap in cellophane and store in an airtight container.

Traditional Egg Custard Tart
Serves: 4
shortcrust pastry*
300ml single cream or milk
1 vanilla pod
strip of lemon peel
2 eggs and one egg yolk
75g caster sugar
grated nutmeg

Roll out the pastry and use to line a 20cm tart tin.
Heat the cream or milk in a heavy saucepan with the vanilla pod and lemon peel, bringing slowly to simmering point.
Leave to infuse for ten minutes.
Bring to the boil again, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Beat the eggs, egg yolk and sugar until pale and thick.
Strain the warm milk on to the egg mixture, stirring all the time, and then pour carefully into the tart tin.
Sprinkle with nutmeg.
Bake in a preheated oven at 170C for 30 - 40 minutes until the top is firm to the touch.
Cool on a wire rack and eat cold on the same day.

* Shortcrust pastry
The usual recipe is half the quantity of fat to flour. The higher the fat content the "shorter" or more crumbly the pastry. All the ingredients need to be kept cool and handled as little as possible.

2 cups plain flour
4 level tablespoons lard
4 level tablespoons butter or margarine
pinch of salt
cold water

Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.
Add the lard and the butter and chop it up roughly with a knife.
With cool fingertips, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Add 2 tablespoons of cold water and then, using a knife, mix lightly into a dough.
Add a little more water if necessary but be careful not to add too much. The dough should not be sticky.
Gently bring the dough into a ball by hand, gathering up any stray bits of dough.
Leave to rest in the fridge for a couple of hours before using.
To use, roll lightly with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface.

My maternal Grandmother had the coldest hands you could imagine which meant she could make delicious shortcrust pastry. My Mother had warm hands like I have and so her pastry was never as good.

A trip back in time

There is nothing quite like a trip back to the UK to remind you of why you wanted to move to Spain.

The local shops

Queuing at the chip shop

The modern transport system

A welcoming fire at home

It is only fair to point out to my Spanish readers that these photographs were taken at the Black Country Museum. This "living" museum shows life in the area as it was during the 1920s.

Of course very few homes in England have coal fires these days - coal is too expensive!

PS The cod in beer batter and chips cooked in lard tasted wonderful as did the humbugs and the custard tarts.

Celebrating Christmas

You could never accuse the people in Bigastro of doing anything by halves.

Just look at the effort these two Primary Schools went to to celebrate Christmas at the Auditorium.

The pre-school children from Bigastrin.

The infants from La Paz

Message from the Town Hall

For those of you who have not seen this on the Bigastro site.

Feliz Navidad

El Ayuntamiento de Bigastro desea a todos sus vecinos en estas fechas tan señaladas FELIZ NAVIDAD y Próspero Año Nuevo 2008

Merry Christmas

The Town Council of Bigastro wishes to all of its neighbors in these important dates; A MERRY CHRISTMAS and A Prosperous New Year for 2008.

I'm sure that all of the English people living here in Bigastro would want to join with me in sending the Town Council our best of wishes for Christmas and for the New Year.

Thank you for all that you have done to make us so welcome in your town.

He needs help

Men make more gags than women and their jokes tend to be more aggressive, Professor Sam Shuster, of Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, says.

The unicycling doctor observed how the genders reacted to his "amusing" hobby.

Women tended to make encouraging, praising comments, while men jeered. The most aggressive were young men, he told the British Medical Journal.

Aggressively funny

Professor Shuster believes humour develops from aggression caused by male hormones.

He documented the reaction of over 400 individuals to his unicycling antics through the streets of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Almost half of people responded verbally - more being men. Very few of the women made comic or snide remarks, while 75% of the men attempted comedy - mostly shouting out "Lost your wheel?", for example. 

Mocking and sneering

Often the men's comments were mocking and intended as a put-down. Young men in cars were particularly aggressive - they lowered their windows and shouted abusively.

This type of behaviour decreased among older men however, who tended to offer more admiring comments, much like the women.

"The idea that unicycling is intrinsically funny does not explain the findings," said Professor Shuster.

The simplest explanation, he says, is the effect of male hormones such as testosterone.

And initial aggressive intent seems to become channelled into a more subtle and sophisticated joke, so the aggression is hidden by wit, claims Professor Shuster.

Dr Nick Neave is a psychologist at the University of Northumbria who has been studying the physical, behavioural, and psychological effects of testosterone.

He suggested men might respond aggressively because they see the other unicycling man as a threat, attracting female attention away from themselves.

"This would be particularly challenging for young males entering the breeding market and thus it does not surprise me that their responses were the more threatening."

Whatever they are paying this guy it's not enough. The learned professor is at the forefront of critical research and can't afford a car. It's scandalous!

Actually I think it might be more than a wheel that Professor Shuster has lost.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Father Christmas can be scary

Papa Noel visited Bigastrin to bring presents to the pre school children.

We'd visited the school on Tuesday to sing carols to them. One of the Spanish ladies from the other class had dressed up as Santa. When she went over to speak to the children, some of them started crying. It must be very daunting when you are so young to see an adult you don't know dressed in red with a large white beard.

Obviously by the time the real Papa Noel visited them, some of the children were used to seeing such a strange person. Apparently there were still tears from others though.

I wonder what they will make of the Three Kings.

Truchas con jamón

Ingredients for 4 people:
4 trout
2 slices of jamón serrano
flour to coat the fish
a little oil
1 lemon (optional).

Cut open the trout lenghwise, remove the guts and clean with cold water.

Cut the slices of jamón serrano into two and place one piece inside each of the trout.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper taking care because jamón is already salty, and then coat in flour.

Warm up oil in a frying pan and fry the trout until golden on both sides.

Dry the fish on kitchen paper to remove the leftover oil.

You can use a lemon for decoration and to give a touch of flavour to the fish.

Very distressing

It is unpleasant to come home and find that someone has broken into your house. Even if very little has been stolen, the feeling of violation of your privacy can be extremely distressing.

Our neighbours across the road, Eladia and Pepe Robles Grau faced that problem on Tuesday night when they arrived home to find that thieves had broken into their daughter's bedroom to steal a couple of watches and some items of jewelry.

We were at home at the time but heard nothing. Neither did Aurelio's wife in the kitchen of their house next door. Luka, who normally barks when anyone goes near Pepe's house, didn't make a sound.

It is hard to understand how the thieves got over the walls and railings that surround Pepe and Eladia's house. It just goes to show how determined they were to break in.

The Robles Grau's are some of the nicest people we have met here in Spain. We hope they are not too upset by what has happened and that the incident doesn't spoil their Christmas.

Plans for more housing

The Valencian government is attempting to reactivate the stagnant housing market by giving the green light for a huge building programme in the region.

As part of a two-pronged plan, regional planning chief José Ramon García Antón announced this week that he will introduce a new law encouraging the building of ‘public protected’ houses.

These subsidised properties will be available at below-market prices for low wage earners. Plans to build 34,500 of the properties have already been approved.

In a meeting on Monday councillor García Antón told around 100 mayors from Alicante province that his department is completing a study to be published in January on the demand for subsidised housing in the provinces of Alicante, Castellón and Valencia.

Councillor García Antón is also ready to give the green light for up to 160 development plans in the Valencia region which have been on hold for the last two years.

Many of the schemes are resorts aimed at northern European buyers, with 65 new golf courses planned in the next eight years.

In an interview with El Mundo, councillor García Antón said  that between 40 to 50 per cent of the 160 plans (PAI) will be approved in the next six months.  He claims that scant water resources would not present a problem for the construction bonanza.

“It is true that a couple of years ago there was a tremendous boom – in sales and in the appearance of new projects and it was not convenient that the whole of the Valencia region should have jumped on that bandwagon. However today we have between 150 and 160 development plans which are pending for rustic land or building land. These would affect around 160 million square metres of land and we have got to decide whether to approve them or not. Before they were warning us about savage overbuilding and now it is that we could be killing the goose that laid the golden egg.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The party that went wrong

You have no doubt already read or heard about the scandal that now surrounds the Manchester United FC Christmas party.

The footballers booked the Great John Street hotel in the Castlefield area of Manchester for their exclusive use, hired security guards, ordered the WAGs – their wives and girlfriends – to stay away and partied through the night with 100 invited models and dancers. The party was described by one observer as a “drinking, lap-dancing and gambling marathon”.

Reports earlier this month in advance of the planned party quoted a source inside the club as saying: “The lads are employing someone to hand-pick females to attend. There are strict instructions that only the best-looking girls in Manchester are to be invited.

Some of the descriptions emerging yesterday from the party will have enraged Sir Alex and United’s American owners. One guest told a news agency: “A lot of the players were really letting their hair down and really enjoying themselves in a big way. Lots of drink was flowing and there were a lot of girls simply trying to bag a footballer for the night. It was all very sleazy.” Another guest said: “Rooney and Rio spent most of the night on the dance floor – but Ryan Giggs stole the show when he did an Elvis Presley impersonation.”

Of course the allegations may amount to nothing. Home Office research shows that the Christmas party season results in a peak of rape allegations and that as many as 86 per cent of cases fail before reaching trial. However, you do wonder why these over paid, high profile celebrities need to celebrate in this way and put their reputations at risk. I'd like to bet the Bigastro C.F. Christmas party is a lot less sleazy.

High risk road

For the third consecutive year, the Real Automobile Club of Spain (RACE), reports that  the section of the N-340 between the provinces of Murcia and Alicante is the most dangerous road in Spain. 

The coordinator of Road Security of the RACE, Antonio Lucas,  considered it " worrisome that the most  dangerous section of road is the same as in 2006 and nothing has been done on the part of the administrators  to solve it ". 

By communities; Asturias is most dangerous in Spain with 25% of its sections recording  an index of elevated risk. Next is Aragón with19%. Madrid, on the other hand,  is the Independent Community  with a greater percentage of points of low risk at 94%. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Nothing new here

The advisor for Education for Valencia , Alexander Font de Mora, insisted yesterday on the convenience " of removing from the classroom the most problematic students ".

Font de Mora reiterated his model of " classrooms of coexistence " as the remedy for cases of students with disruptive and precise conducts. The idea is that the professor (having exhausted their pedagogical resources) moves the student to another classroom to guarantee the stability of performance in theirs.

In the Valencian model a second type of classroom would be created to take care of " the minority of students with serious personality problems that cause insurmountable difficulties within the system". According to the socialist deputy, Adolf Sanmartín, this would create ghettos and underlines a philosophy of sanctioning rather than prevention and change in pedagogy.

We used to have a "duty room" at Anfield many years ago where disruptive pupils were sent. Inevitably it was the same faces in the room every day. The same children would miss out on their proper lessons. So in the end we gave it up. However, that meant that the classroom teacher had to find ways of coping with highly disruptive pupils and more to the point so did the rest of the class. Inevitably the worst pupils would end up being suspended.

Sadly, there is no easy solution to the problem of disruptive children in either country.

Spanish tiles

Prince Charles has been accused of "commercial treason" over his decision to grant a Royal Warrant to a Spanish company - at the expense of a British competitor.

Porcelanosa, the Spanish tiling company, won the seal of approval after carrying out extensive work at Charles's royal residences and donating hundreds of thousands of pounds to his favourite charities.

James Wickes is a co-owner of the 130-year-old British Ceramic Tiles, which had hoped to gain royal approval for its 300-strong workforce.

"A Royal Warrant needs to be earned and I don't expect them to be dished out to any old company. When I heard that one had been granted to Porcelanosa I did think it was a bit like awarding the Red Baron a Victoria Cross." In my opinion, a very poor analogy given that the Red Baron was actually an enemy of England.

Kevin Farrell, chief executive of the British Ceramic Confederation, said: "I'd be very surprised if the King of Spain would be so helpful to a British company. Another poor comparison since Charles is not the King of England. Perhaps the Prince of Asturias would have been a better choice. I would have thought all of us in the UK would champion what is British, and British-made."

You employ Polish plumbers and Italian football managers. Britain imports so much it's a wonder there are any British companies suitable for Royal Warrants.

In this case however, could it just be that Porcelanosa's tiles were simply better?

Monday, December 17, 2007

The window dressing competition

The three members of the jury, after evaluating  the  seventeen participants in this competition, have awarded:-

 First Prize to   Óptica Lorente
 Second Prize to Floristería "Las Calas"
 Third Prize:  Decorations to  "Mi Rincón"

The Council of Promotion congratulates  the winners along with the rest of the participants all of whom collaborated by showing a positive image of  local commerce in Bigastro.  

On the 5th of January, after the Cavalcade of Kings, the winners will receive their prize in the Carpa Municipal of the Parque Huerto del Cura. 

Christmas in Bigastro

- 19th, 20th and 21st of December: The Councilor for Social welfare, Mª Carmen Alonso, will make his regular Christmas visit to all the people in the SAD (service of attention at home) programme to bring them Christmas greetings.

- the Council of Culture next to the Municipal Library has organized the eleventh edition of the Christmas Story, in three categories: infants, youths and adults.

- 18th, 19th and 20th of December, the Primary School, San Jose de Calasanz, has prepared Christmas classroom activities, including Christmas poems and stories. On the 21st of December there will be a joint carol concert when donations of food will be made to to Caritas.

- Thursday, 20th of December at 3:30pm in the Auditorium " Francisco Grau " students from the Infant School " La Paz " will celebrate the festival of Christmas, this year based on Cuento (the rights of Childhood). In addition, on Monday the 17th, students from the Permanent School of Adults (that is us) will visit La Paz to sing carols to the children.

- the Infantile School Municipal " Bigastrín " has prepared different activities for the children:

on Tuesday 18th of December at 4pm, the Students of the Permanent School of Adults (us again) will sing carols to the small students at Bigastrín .

on Thursday, 20th of December at 9:30 am PAPA NOEL will visit Bigastrín to make a delivery of gifts to all the children and later take the traditional chocolate.

on Friday, 21st of December at 3:30pm in the Auditorium, the students of Bigastrín will celebrate the Festival of Christmas, which this year is based on the traditional toys and the feelings of love, peace and happiness.

- Saturday, 22nd of December: the students of the School of Music of Bigastro will present a Festival of Christmas in the Auditorium at 6pm. You can expect them to make their music using a wide range of unusual objects

- Sunday, 23rd of December: the Council of Promotion, taking advantage of that the shops will be open, has prepared animation of long cushions, etc for children in the C /Purisima .

At 7:30pm there will be a performance of " Blood Weddings" by Federico García Lorca " at the Auditorium.

- 26th, 27th, 28th of December and 2nd, 3rd, and 4th of January: the Council of Education have organised activities under the banner of "White Christmases" for children between 4 and 12 years. These will take place in the Centro Social Integrado from 10:00am to 1:00 pm. The fee is 5 €.

- Monday, 24th of December at midnight: After the success of the last year, The Council of Celebrations, Youth and Culture has prepared a Celebration of Christmas Eve in the Carpa Municipal located in the Parque Huerto del Cura. This free disco will be hosted by local DJs.

- Sunday, 30th of December at 7pm, the Auditorium welcomes the infant theatre " The Attic of Dreams ".

- Monday, 31st of December at midnight: The celebration of New Year in the Carpa Municipal.

- Tuesday, 1st of January at 7:30pm, a Concert of Classic Music in the Auditorium.

- Saturday, 5th of January: The Council of Culture, Celebrations and Youth has organized the Cavalcade of the Three Kings through C/ Purisima. Their Majestys will then offer gifts to all of the children in the Carpa Municipal.

- Sunday, 6th of January at 7:30pm the Auditorium welcomes the traditional Concert of Kings given by the Society Musical Union of Bigastro.

- Sunday, 13th of January in the evening. The Council of the Woman in collaboration with the Association of Progressive Women of Bigastro Francisco Grau celebrates the seventh edition of the "Concurso de Repostería Navideña" in the Multipurpose Room at the Auditorium.

So it looks like a busy time with lots to keep everyone amused and entertained.

Monday, December 10, 2007


I forgot to say, I'll be out of town for a few days so please no gossip until I return.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Another rumour squashed

We had heard that the Garden Centre in Bigastro was closing because the business was being move elsewhere.

What they are doing in fact is expanding the business by opening another Garden Centre in Benejuzar. We are assured that the existing one in Bigastro will remain open.

You may be interested to know that the seasonal planters on Calle Purisima were supplied by the Garden Centre in Bigastro. If you are looking for a poinsettia or other plants to decorate your house for Christmas they have excellent quality stock at very good prices.

PS No, before you ask I am not on commission.

Zero tolerance for violence towards women

Violence is the serious manifestation of the inequality between
women and men.

In a society like ours, constructed on the base of the respect for fundamental rights, sex cannot be neither the cause nor the reason for discrimination or inequality.

The object of this exercise is to communicate to the Valencian Community, the necessity to support victims of aggression as well as to inform them of their rights and to facilitate the access of the women to resources which can help them.

Under the motto " punto final violencia de genero" , the integral support unit bus for woman will visit Bigastro on the 11th of December from 4 until 7pm located in the Plaza de la Concordia (C/ Jubilados).

Friday, December 07, 2007

You know what they say about red skies

All I can say is that the shepherds around here must be delighted.

View from our roof.

View across to Sierra Orihuela from our roof.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Huerta

In an number of my posts I have mentioned the Huerta or traditional orchard of Bigastro but what is it and what do they grow there?

The Traditional Orchard of Bigastro is located in the heart of the Vega Baja and harks back to the rural tradition of the area. Over centuries it has been the source of wealth for the inhabitants thanks to the culture of the earth, formerly wetlands, and to the development during Islamic period of the system of traditional watering which is still in use today.

These early agriculturists made good use of the waters from the Segura river and set an example to be followed. Their techniques have allowed locals to continue with agricultural activity in the area. Added to the production of vegetables and tubers like potatoes, tomatoes, lettuces, marrows, artichokes, onions, cauliflowers, beans, etc., the important production of citrus fruits drives the rural economy today.

The huerta is considered an important historic, cultural, natural and agricultural legacy. It still exerts an important influence on the maintenance of the social and ideological structure of the municipality which is reflected in the enterprising and good natured character of its citizens.

Typical fruits of the huerta include the quince which is used in the local "Dulce de Membrillo" dessert. The growing of date palms goes back to Islamic times of the seventh and eight centuries. This sense of tradition also pervades the growth of citrus varieties which include naranja blanca, sanguina and verna. The "queen of the Huerta" though is the artichoke or "alcasil" as it is sometimes known.

There are other crops though which are important to the local cuisine e.g. "acelga de la huerta", "camarroja amarga", "lisón", "rompete" and "serrajón". These are the Autumn plants that are used in combination with vegetables to provide the special flavours of the area's dishes.

This one is easy and versatile

You've sampled the local delicacies here in Spain. Now here is your chance to try preparing them for yourselves.

These recipes are translated with the kind permission of the Ayuntamiento de Bigastro.


Ingredients for 4 people:

300gms. of bread, 1/2kg of potatoes, 1 head of garlic, olive oil and salt.


Cut up dry bread that has been left for a few days and sprinkle it with plenty of water. Leave it to rest. Slice the potatoes. Lightly fry the garlic in the olive oil and in the same oil, fry the potatoes. Add the cut pieces of bread and continue cooking until it is golden.

Migas are simple, traditional dishes that made up the basic diet of shepherds, mule carriers and people working in the fields of southeast Spain. There are 15 different variations of this recipe e.g. migas can be made with bread and flour. They can accompany a great variety of other ingredients for a meal, from fried fish to fruits like grapes or pomegranates. They can also be dipped in drinking chocolate or coffee.

These are delicious


Ingredients for 40 to 50 biscuits:

1/2 kg of flour, 1/2 kg of sugar, 3/4 litre of Anis Paloma*, 1/2 litre of oil

* Anis Paloma is a spirit produced in Monteforte del Cid (Alicante) from star anise or green anise. With an alcohol content of 40 - 55%, it is a relatively strong drink with a distinct aniseed taste.


Mix the olive oil with the peel from the lemon in a frying pan and warm. When the lemon is blackened turn off the heat. Mix the flour and the sugar together in a bowl with the warm oil and then add the liquor. Having blended and kneaded the mixture thoroughly,  roll it out using a rolling pin. Cut out star shaped pieces. Bake on a tray at 120 degrees centigrade for 30 minutes. Glaze with honey and serve.

NB Whereas in England and other countries cooks would use solid margarine e.g. Stork as the fat for this type of recipe, in Spain they use olive oil. 

I imagine, in England,  you could use something like Pernod instead of Anis Paloma to get a similar result.

Que rico

Rollos de Naranja

Ingredients for 20 rollos:

1kg of flour, 350gms of sugar, 1 cup of oil, 1 cup of fresh orange juice, the rind and juice from 1 small lemon and one teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda).


Beat together the orange juice, the oil, the juice of the lemon, the bicarbonate and the sugar in a bowl. Add the flour and knead. Smooth out the dough and use a mold to form it into circles. Put them on trays, coat them with egg and sugar and then bake for 20 minutes in a moderate oven.

NB You use baking soda rather than baking powder because the latter contains an acid which you don't need with the citrus juice in this recipe.

Do try this at home!

Habichuelos con peras

Ingredients for 4 people:

2 onions, 200 gms. of green beans, 4 pears, 200 gms. of white kidney beans, a sprig of mint, 1 tacita of olive oil, 1/4kgm of potatoes, a pinch of pepper and salt.


Soak the kidney beans overnight.

Chop up the onions and the beans and then boil them together with the kidney beans for 20 minutes. Add the potatoes, the pears, the mint and a pinch of pepper. Cook for a further 20 minutes on a low heat.

NB I'm not sure what a tacita of olive oil is or when it is used in this recipe. I imagine it is just a sprinkle of oil on the finished dish.

Another one to try

Arroz verde

Ingredients for 4 people:

2 medium sized aubergines, 1 green pepper, 150gms. of green beans, 1 onion, 2 ripe tomatoes, 100gms of dried cod, 400gms of rice (paella rice), olive oil, parsley, saffron and salt.


Leave the cod in water overnight to desalinate it. Chop the onions, the beans and the peppers into medium sized pieces. Cut the aubergines into round slices.

Add oil to the paella and lightly fry the onions, the fish, the peppers, the beans, the tomatoes and the aubergines.

Finally add the rice, a little garlic and the parsley. Season with saffron and salt to taste. Cover with water and cook for 20 minutes.

I imagine that you could use fresh cod, or any other white fish you prefer, instead of the salted cod.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Cars v computers

I remember when my father bought his first new car. It had a timetable for "running in" which specified the maximum speeds and schedule of services that had to be followed during this period. The first 200 miles at no more than 30 miles per hour, then an oil change etc etc. It was like nurturing a baby. Only when he had completed 6,000 miles could he just simply get in the car and drive it at whatever speed it was capable of which actually wasn't very much.

Of course cars have progressed a lot since then. New cars don't require any specific running in and the first service (including oil change) is after one year. It's almost as if they've completed the 6,000 miles "running in" when you first buy them.

Of course you don't have to run computers in but you do need to treat them like babies. My first Windows PC ran Windows 95. Certain printers, modems and quite a lot of software just wouldn't play ball with it. I had to constantly back up my work for fear of loosing it when Windows crashed inexplicably or refused to boot up. I crossed my fingers every time I switched it on and felt relief when it started up correctly.

My current machine runs Windows Vista, Microsoft's latest incarnation of their operating system. You would think that in the twelve years since '95 that all the bugs and problems would have been sorted but no. Vista might have all the bells and whistles but still needs treating with kid gloves. An errant device driver or a piece of flaky software will bring it crashing to its knees just like my old Windows 95 machine. Just when I think it is sorted and running fine it will crash again. It hasn't happened often but I would argue it shouldn't happen at all. Of course, unlike my Windows 95 machine, this one will recover and sort itself out - until the next time.

So it seems that whilst cars have improved to the extent that you just get in and drive them, computers are still in need of TLC. Perhaps I should wait for Windows Perfecta - the system that never crashes, doesn't need rebuilding every six months and just lets you get on with what you want to do without constantly having to groom it. Or maybe I should go back to Mac OS or possibly move on to Linux but then I'd have to start on the steep learning curve all over again.

Service Pack 1 for Vista should be available early next year. That should sort things out until Service Pack 2!!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

My opinion

Of course, Pam and I have a vested interest in the Town Council's Special Plan for the Public Park of Bigastro because it is one of the views that we have from our solarium.

Many other residents and locals use the area though and enjoy the breathtaking views that you get from walking around the path that forms a boundary to the parkland. On clear days you can see all the way across to Santa Pola and the mountain ranges that back the coastal plain. You can see Orihuela, the Seminary and the mountain behind the city. As you walk around the path you get views towards the Embalse and then later the vast orange groves which stretch to Hurchillo.

There are parts that need to be cleared up. The disused agricultural land isn't so much of a problem but the pieces of irrigation pipe that have been abandoned are. The path itself could be improved to make it easier for people to traverse. Information boards which show you what the vistas encompass would be good as well. There has been some landscaping on the road that leads to the old escombrera. The road itself has been improved but needs tarmac to make it suitable for traffic. The changes made though need to enhance the beauty and not detract from it.

The park, like the huerta, the lomas and the Zona de Ocio, need to be preserved and maintained. These are the defining characteristics of the town which make it attractive to both residents and visitors alike. They are what make Bigastro stand out from the other towns in the area as a place of beauty and nature rather than just shops, houses and places to work.


Please click on the picture to enlarge it

The Town Council's Special Plan for the Public Park of Bigastro is open for consultation to the public. Apart from forums and consultations with various associations, they have published a questionnaire to judge public opinion about aspects of the area covered by the plan.

The area covered, which is shown on the aerial view above, is basically the land the other side of Calle Le Vegan from Villas Andrea.

Project: Study of Landscaping Integration of the Special Plan " Public Park
Pedrera". Bigastro (Alicante)
Surname First name(s)

The scope of the Special Plan is located in South half of the municipality, in the zone including the recreational area and the zone of leisure of "the Pedrera" and its scope Eastern.

It is contiguous to the north with forest ground and the municipality of Orihuela, to the south with the urbanized sector D-9 (Villas Andrea), to the west with the environs of the camping Pedrera and to the east with a disused agricultural area.

Please answer the following questions:
1. Do you know the scope of this project? Do you visit the location?
2. What valuation, with respect to its landscaping quality, would you give to the zone ? (In a scale from the 1 to the 5, where 1 is Very bad and 5 Very good).
3. In your opinion, what roads and other accesses that border the scope of plan are
most used for traffic? ( mark with an x).
. Cv-95 (Orihuela-Torrevieja)
. Cv-920 (Benejúzar-Bigastro)
. Accesses to the Area of Leisure " Pedrera"
. Others (Indicate which)
4. Do you know of some location that offers quality views (viewpoints, etc.) in
scope of this zone?
5. What elements you would emphasize that identify the image of this territory? (mark
only 1 or 2 of the remarkable ones from your point of view with an x).
. Embalse of the Pedrera (blue lake)
. Agricultural character
. Zone of Leisure of the Pedrera
. Hills and Pine trees
. New urbanizations
. Others (please indicate what)
6. What negative aspects you would emphasize of the zone? Which are the elements of
degraded aspect more?
. Disused agricultural parcels of land
. Tipping or rubbish accumulation
. Problems of erosion
. Loss of the forest vegetation and ground by clearings
7. What proposals can be implemented for the development of the Special Plan?
( marks with an x)
. Zonificar according to the characteristics of the landscape
. Conserve and improve the vegetation
. Signaling of footpaths for the public use
. To recover the landscaping effects of the degraded elements
. To avoid the proliferation of fly tipping and other
. Others (please indicate what)

Completed questionnaires to be returned to the Ayuntamiento.

If you wish to participate you can download a questionnaire (in Spanish) to complete.

The area encompassed by the plan

The disused agricultural area to the east

The boundary with the pine trees

Monday, December 03, 2007

House prices slump further

The prices of houses in Spain fell by a further 0.68% in November bringing the average price down to 2,476 euros per square metre. This is the fifth consecutive month that the price of resale houses has dropped in Spain.

Asturias and Extremadura registered the largest decreases at 6.66% and 4.81% respectively. Aragón, Murcia and Cantabria all registered more than 1% drops in prices.

Even in Madrid and Barcelona recorded price drops of 0.30%. However, the price per square metre of houses in Madrid remains at over 4,000 euros.

Some areas saw an increase in prices during November including; Navarrese - 1.76%, Galicia - 1.21% and Castilla and Leon at 0.76%. Over the year, in Salamanca the prices have increased by an incredible 20.10%, in Ceuta by 14.60%, Cordova by 13.07%, Huesca by12.93% and Zamora by11,44%.

So it is great news for those who are buying but not so good for anybody trying to sell especially if they are looking to buy where prices are stable or on the increase.

Latest reports from the UK predict that house prices there will plummet by 10% in the next year. That will be the largest drop in prices since records began in 1969 and will put thousands of people into negative equity.

The problem in the UK has been caused by five Bank of England interest rises and the problems that the banking sector is experiencing. The credit squeeze has made borrowing more difficult which in turn has pushed down house prices.

Saturday night

This Saturday at 7:00pm, the Auditorio Municipal "Francisco Grau" welcomes the "Teatro Olvido" (Theatre Forgetfullness) of Roberto Di Parma.

This play is about a group of young people who are fond of the theatre discovering the exciting world of opera.

Their performance will celebrate the "FIRST GALA DEL ALZHEIMER", which aims to generate support for the activities that the Association of Relatives of Alzheimer put on during the year.

Cost of entrance to the play will be 5€.

Electricity cuts

Iberdrola have advised Bigastro Town Council that there will be electricity cuts on Tuesday 4th of December as follows:-  
 *  The area around C/Tomas Villanueva (from 8.15 to 8.45am and  from  12.30 to 12.45 pm)
 *  The area around C / Goya (from 8.45 to 9.15 am   and from 12.45 to  1.00 pm)
 *  Plaza Constitucion (from 8.15 to 8.45 am  and from 12.30 to 12.45 pm)

Although none of  these cuts should affect houses on Villas Andrea, experience in the past tells us that they might.

Council tax problems

According to the PP party, there are around 200 houses in Bigastro which do not pay the Impuesto de Bienes Inmuebles (Council tax) including four houses belonging to councilmen. They say that there are 32 houses, completed over two years ago, which are not regularised i.e. they haven't been granted Cédulas de Habitabilidad and therefore don't have mains electricity and water. Aurelio Murcia, the spokesperson for the PP party, admits that, even though he's had the tax bill for his house, he hasn't paid it yet.

Originally we had a problem with our IBI because the Valor Catastral for the house had been incorrectly calculated. It took over a year and a visit to the Catastra Office in Alicante to sort that out. The final demand we had from SUMA told us to either pay the tax or take our car, along with the documents and keys, to their office as payment. Thankfully that wasn't necessary once the value of our house had been corrected.

So we ended up paying our IBI for 2005, 2006 and 2007 this year. In comparison with English Council Taxes the sums are relatively small and affordable.

I remember when the Socialist Militant Council in Liverpool advised people not to pay the iniquitous Poll Tax which had been imposed by Thatcher's Conservative Government. That decision nearly bankrupted the city. I dare say that Liverpool is still owed millions of that uncollected tax.

I don't suppose non payment of IBI from 200 houses would bankrupt Bigastro but it will make a sizeable hole in its budget. In any case, SUMA probably haven't got space to park all those cars.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

I'm only the messenger

People ask where I get the information from for my blog.

Most of the news about Bigastro comes from the excellent site maintained by Germán Martín for the Departmento Tecnología Ayuntamiento, Bigastro.

Then of course there are the various online free papers in English and the online versions of Spanish and English news which I consult each day for my own benefit.

I freely admit to doing a bit of cutting and pasting along with a large dose of editing of the information I find but then most bloggers and journalists do the same.

Some days it is a body's work! Other days I'm scratching for something to write about. Pete Brooks at Anfield inspired me to do this. He knew it was the best way to keep me out of mischief.

Villancicos Navideños

When you visit supermarkets and shopping centres in the next couple of weeks you're likely to hear a mixture of Christmas music. Along with the usual cheesy "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" , "Jingle Bells" etc, you'll also hear the delightful Spanish villancicos navideños.

These are three that we are learning in our Spanish classes (we only sing the parts in italics).

Los Peces en el Rio

La Virgen está lavando
y tendiendo en el romero
los pajaritos cantando
y el romero floreciendo

Pero mira como beben los peces en el río
Pero mira como beben por ver al Dios Nacido
Beben y Beben y vuelven a Beber
Los peces en el río por ver a Dios Nacer.

La Virgen se está peinando
entre cortina y cortina
los cabellos son de oro
y el peine de plata fina

Pero mira como beben los peces en el río
Pero mira como beben por ver al Dios Nacido
Beben y Beben y vuelven a Beber
Los peces en el río por ver a Dios Nacer.

Campana sobre Campana

Campana sobre campana,
y sobre campana una,
asómate a la ventana,
verás al Niño en la cuna.

Belén, campanas de Belén,
que los ángeles tocan
¿qué nueva me traéis?

Recogido tu rebaño
¿a dónde vas pastorcillo?
Voy a llevar al portal
requesón, manteca y vino.

Belén, campanas de Belén,
que los ángeles tocan
¿qué nueva me traéis?

Campana sobre campana,
y sobre campana dos,
asómate a esa ventana,
porque está naciendo Dios.

Belén, campanas de Belén,
que los ángeles tocan
¿qué nueva me traéis?

Campana sobre campana,
y sobre campana tres,
en una Cruz a esta hora,
el Niño va a padecer.

Belén, campanas de Belén,
que los ángeles tocan
¿qué nueva me traéis?

Rin rin

Hacia Belén va una burra

Yo me la remendaba,
yo me la remendé,
yo me eché un remiendo,
yo me lo quité.

cargada de chocolate,
lleva su chocolatera

Yo me la remendaba,
yo me la remendé,
yo me eché un remiendo,
yo me lo quité.

su molinillo y su anafre,
María, María,
ven acá corriendo,
que el chocolatillo
se lo están comiendo.

En el Portal de Belén
rin, rin

Yo me la remendaba,
yo me la remendé,
yo me eché un remiendo,
yo me lo quité.

han entrado los ratones,
y al bueno de San José

Yo me la remendaba,
yo me la remendé,
yo me eché un remiendo,
yo me lo quité.

le han roído los calzones,
ven acá corriendo,
que los calzoncillos,
los están royendo.

En el portal de Belén

Yo me la remendaba,
yo me la remendé,
yo me eché un remiendo,
yo me lo quité.

gitanillos han entrado,
Y al Niño que está en la cuna

Yo me la remendaba,
yo me la remendé,
yo me eché un remiendo,
yo me lo quité.

los pañales le han robado,
María, María
ven acá volando
que los pañalillos,
los están llevando.

Take the words with you next time you go shopping and join in!

¡No mas aves!

On Friday October 19th I told you about the blackbird that had got stuck in our chimney.

Since then I have heard birds in the chimney on several occasions but each time they have managed to escape through the top. That was until Wednesday when another blackbird got stuck. It obviously couldn't get back out and wouldn't come down so we had to leave it.

Once it was dark, the bird went quiet. By lunchtime the next day we were getting concerned about the bird's welfare so we asked our neighbour to come in. She is very good with pets of all sorts. Within minutes she'd coaxed the bird to come down into the room. It flew straight out through the nearest open window obviously glad to be free again.

The design of the chimney has to be the problem. First there is a ledge which is perfect for birds to perch on and then there are holes for them to squeeze through. All the chimneys on the estate are the same. In fact most Spanish chimneys are of a similar design. They look nice, they stop the rain coming down into the fireplace but are obviously a magnet to birds. Several people tell us they've had birds stuck in their chimneys; including our neighbour.

Anyway we have someone coming on Tuesday to put mesh over the part where the holes are. The stuff this guy uses is so fine a wasp couldn't get through it let alone a blackbird.

So that should be another completed challenge we can tick off.

An Evening with Jane Cronin

Most of us would agree that there’s an awful lot to living in Spain that nobody quite got round to telling us before we came. There were plenty of things that weren’t mentioned either on our inspection trips or in the glossy brochures.

Jane Cronin’s years of working on the Costa Blanca as a Spanish teacher have given her a unique insight into the ups and downs of expat life and brought her into contact with a wide variety of ‘Costa characters’ each with a story to tell.

At last Jane, who was joined by guitarist Danny Ray of ABBA Elite, shared them in an hilarious stand up comedy evening.

This unique event took place on Saturday 1st December at 8pm in the Hotel La Zenia, Orihuela Costa.

Let's hope that she publishes some of the tales on her website or better still in a book so that the rest of us can laugh at them.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Mrs. Gibbons

You will have all read about Gillian Gibbons, the Liverpool teacher working in Sudan, who was sentenced to 15 days in prison followed by repatriation yesterday. Most seem to agree that what she did was simply a misunderstanding of Islamic sensitivity to the use of the name Mohamed for the class teddy bear. However, in Sudan a teddy bear is not regarded as a cuddly symbol of mercy but rather a representation of an animal.

Clearly the incident infuriated many hard line clerics, some of whom were calling for Mrs Gibbons to be executed. The normal punishment for the crime would have been 40 lashes and a term in prison. The Sudanese judge obviously felt that the sentence passed was as lenient as he could impose.

At least she wasn't convicted of selling alcohol like Gavin Sherrard-Smith who in 1993 was given 50 lashes. He said that he “didn’t realise the human body could tolerate such pain.” Or the two expatriate workers who were sentenced to public beheading after confessing on television to taking part in illicit trade of alcohol. They retracted their confessions and were released after the Saudi King granted them “royal clemency.”

The point is that Mrs Gibbons was living in a "hard line" Islamic country and should possibly have been more aware of the implications of that. We live here in a predominantly Catholic country where religion assumes a much greater importance in people's live than it does in much of the UK. It's a fact which we need to be aware of. I doubt that anyone would be punished for calling a teddy bear Jesus in Spain but it would probably be regarded with disdain.

When you live in a foreign  country, you don't necessarily have to adopt the culture but you do have to be at least sensitive to it.  I'm sure that Mrs Gibbons will have learnt that lesson well by the time she returns to the UK.

A worthy winner

Khadra Bekedda Lazreg, a student from " San José de Calasanz " school in Bigasro has won in the primary section of the competition "Defensor del Pueblo 2007 ." This competition, open to students in primary and secondary schools throughout Spain, was for drawings on the theme of "Human Rights".

The eight winners, along with their tutors and directors will visit the Congreso de los Diputados on the 10th of December where D. Enrique Múgica Hergoz, President of the Defensor del Pueblo will present them with their prizes.

If one of my "A" level Art students had produced that drawing I would have been proud. Khadra obviously has a lot of talent.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The fight against AIDS

On Friday 30th of November, the World-wide Day of the Fight against AIDS, the Council of Social welfare of the City council of Bigastro has planned to provide information in the City council and the Institute of Secondary Education Miguel Hernandez about the disease.

In addition there will be a distribution of promotional material aimed at informing the population, in particular young people, about AIDS. The leaflets will help them to understand the disease and the most frequent routes of transmission etc.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The plot thickens

I posted an item of gossip on Saturday about the land opposite Calle Holandia which is currently an unused orange grove. It has been suggested that the land is going to be built upon and that the small fenced area will be used to store equipment and materials.

At the seventh anniversary dinner of the Association of Promoters of the Vega Baja (Procosta) the President, Antonio Navarro said that construction in the region is registering a deep crisis because the sale of houses had dropped dramatically over the last two years.

However, the observant ones will have noticed that the steel storage container, that was on the land opposite Aurelio's house, has now been moved to the cleared plot on the corner.

The question is - does this mean that building is going to start on the orange grove or is Aurelio clearing the plot opposite his house ready for building there? There is still the old generator which was used to provide electricity for the estate along with the oil tank that fed it to be moved. If they go then my bet would be on a house opposite Aurelio's.

Don't quote me yet but just watch this space!

Monday, November 26, 2007

No fresh fish today

Forecast of winds of up to 70 kms/h later in the day kept fishing boats from Jávea, Benidorm, El Campello, Guardamar de  Segura and Torrevieja in harbour today. The strong winds are expected to continue until tomorrow.

The ninth local instrumental interpretation contest

Between the 30th of November and 2nd of December, Bigastro will play host to this competition at the Auditorio Municipal "Francisco Grau".

This year the Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro and the Sociedades Musicales de la Comunidad Valenciana (sponsored by the Concejalía de Cultura del Ayuntamiento de Bigastro) have the pleasure and the honor to organize and present this prestigious event.

Throughout the weekend (mornings and afternoons), about 200 students, finalists from the 21 Musical Societies of the Vega Baja and Baix Vinalopó, will participate in the different categories both as individual and in groups.

The judging panel will be made up of prestigious musicians, presided over by the Honorable President, D. Francisco Grau Vegara and the President, D. Manuel Gutiérrez Lopez.

The programme for the competition will be as follows:
Friday, 30th November at 6pm
4th Category soloists
a) woodwind -strings-piano
b) brass-percussion
Saturday, 1st of December at 9:30am
3rd Category soloists
a) woodwind-strings-piano
b) brass-percussion
and at 4:30pm
2nd Category groups
1st Category groups
Sunday, 2nd of December at 9:30am
2nd Category soloists
a) woodwind-strings-piano
3rd Category groups
and at 5:00pm
2nd Category soloists
b) brass-percussion
1st Category soloists
a) woodwind-strings-piano
b) brass-percussion

Could it get worse - it just did

According to the Sun newspaper, Britain's top judges have been put at risk after two CDs with their personal details were sent out in the POST.

The discs, containing 55,000 separate files, also had highly sensitive information about hundreds of barristers and solicitors.

Magistrates were also named along with county councils, government departments — and almost every police authority in the country. The discs even had details of Prince Charles’s Duchy of Cornwall Estate.

The information included bank account numbers, sort codes, and home addresses. It would have put those named at massive risk from identity theft and fraud.

Freelance project manager Frank Milford was hired in October 2006 by the Department of Constitutional Affairs to overhaul its financial management.

Frank called up Liberata, an outsourced firm which handled all the Department’s finances, and asked for a list of suppliers expecting to to get company names and invoice details.

Instead two CDs arrived by post to his home containing every person, business or company ever paid by the DCA over the last five years. The CDs were not encrypted and had no password. And the package was not even sent recorded or registered post.

Dozens of judges, Lords and Ladies, professors, doctors, coroners and medical experts appeared on the list of people on the CDs. Many addresses, phone numbers and email details were recorded alongside bank information.

Incredibly once Frank’s work was finished in July, he was not even asked to hand the CDs back.

The DCA is now the Ministry of Justice and Secretary of State Jack Straw is certain to be infuriated by the breach.

A spokesman for his department said: “We will launch an internal investigation.”

Imagine how much those CDs would be worth in the wrong hands. I just hope that Frank has got rid of them before "Burglar Bill" decides to pay him a visit.

Absolutely no difference

40% of the teachers in the Valencian Community are demotivated  and 7% are considering  the possibility of looking for alternative work according to  a survey gathered in the report of the Defensor del Pueblo.

The main reasons given are, interruptions by the students in lessons (100% of teachers in the survey) and the lack of respect shown by students towards them (82.3% ).  

 Other factors included; the lack of participation by families in the education of their children (37.3% of the teachers), student learning difficulties (36,3%) and  aggressive behaviour between students (23,3%). 

If you surveyed English teachers you would get almost identical results. It isn't the newspaper headline behaviour that causes most grief for teachers, it's the low level disruption that wears them down. As for lack of respect. Don't get me started on that topic! Some of  the children I encountered showed no respect for their parents, for people in authority, for their teachers, for their peers even for themselves.

One factor that the English teachers might add though is lack of support by parents. Increasingly,  parents in England will blame the teachers rather than their children for things that go wrong in school.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Last night's concert for Santa Cecilia

For my English readers:


1. PASODOBLE: "III CENTENARIO" by José Vicente Diaz Alcaina


(adaptation for a band by Antonio Rodriguez Pérez [first performance])

Soloist: Antonio Rodriguez Pérez (trumpet)

3. "SINATRA IN CONCERT" arrangement by-. Jerry Nowak

Soloist: Florencio Sáez (Bigasto born pianist)

he also played Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini's "Moon River" as an encore.

4. B.S.O.: "PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN" by: Klaus Badelt

5. B.S.O.: "JOHN WILLIAMS IN CONCERT" arrangement by: Paul Lavender

including theme tunes from the films Jaws, ET, Star Wars etc.

PASODOBLE: "DOÑA LOLA" by: Francisco Grau Vegara

The concert was absolutely brilliant. The soloists were exceptional and the audience were delighted with it all.

El Concierto en honor Santa Cecilia anoche


1. PASODOBLE: "III CENTENARIO" Autor: José Vicente Diaz Alcaina


(Instrumentación para banda por Antonio Rodriguez Pérez [estreno])

Solista: Antonio Rodriguez Pérez

3. "SINATRA IN CONCERT" Arreglo de-. Jerry Nowak

Solista: Florencio Sáez

4. B.S.O.: "PIRATAS DEL CARIBE" Autor: Klaus Badelt

5. B.S.O.: "JOHN WILLIAMS IN CONCERT" Arreglo de: Paul Lavender

PASODOBLE: "DOÑA LOLA" Autor: Francisco Grau Vegara

Notas sobre los solistas

La versión de la sonata para trompeta y orquesta de cuerda en re mayor para banda que hoy escuchamos ha sido instrumentada por el propio solista. Antonio Rodriguez Pérez es músico polivalente, paisano nuestro, que ha destacado corrio compositor, instrumentista, director de coros y profesor de las asignaturas de Armonia, Contrapunto y Composición del Conservatorio Profesional de la Ciudad de Murcia, donde actualmente reside.

- Florencio Sáez es un prestigioso pianista bigastrense que ocupa la cátedra de armonia del Conservatorio Superior de Música "Oscar Esplá" de Alicante. Es desde 1994 director musical y pianista acompaňante de la agrupación "Galas Liricas" que fundó el prestigioso baritono Guillermo Palomar, k.on un amplisimo repertorio de ópera, lied y zarzuela. Ha acompaňado también a grandes jóvenes valores de la lirica espaňola a lo largo de toda la geografía national, con un total de más de doscientos conciertos en los ú1timos aňos.

Anoche, la interpretación musical fue absolutamente brillante. Los solistas estuvieron excepcional y el auditorio se encanta de todo.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

More gossip

Pam and I are not fond of passing on any of the many rumours that we hear. For one thing, they are mostly misleading and in some cases downright harmful. However I couldn't help but be tickled by this one, so I have to share it with you.

The rumour starts by saying that Aurelio Murcia, who built Villas Andrea and lives here, has bought the land opposite Calle Holandia with the intention of building more houses on it. He was apparently seen with a clipboard looking over it some time ago - a sure sign, if ever there was one, that he must have bought it.

According to the rumour, the small plot of land on the corner, which was cleared and fenced off some time back, is where he intends to store materials and equipment for the construction of the houses. The observant ones will have noticed that the small plot has been cleared again. Does that mean that construction on the larger plot is imminent?

If you really want to know, my suggeston is that you go and ask Aurelio himself but remember he is a politician, so may not give you a straightforward answer!

Actually I have a better plan. Let's just wait and see - "que sera sera".

Sausages are back

We all know how Chinese whispers work; especially here at Villas Andrea. On Saturday the 10th, I posted an item about the butchers we go to near Mercadona. They'd been visited by Health and Safety inspectors who told them they couldn't sell products without proper labelling in Spanish.

Last week I was told by a neighbour that Reeve's weren't allowed to sell sausages and pies anymore. You will note the subtle but significant difference in the story. The tale now implied that there was something wrong with the sausages and pies that Reeve's sell. NOT TRUE.

I'm pleased to say that, following a second visit by Health and Safety inspectors, sausages and pies are now back on sale at Reeve's. Furthermore they can also sell products from the freezer cabinet again.

Interestingly though, the sausages and pies are not out on display in the shop. The reason we were given was because there wasn't enough space for them now that there are joints of meat for Christmas on display.

In a scenario, which reminded me of newsagents who kept adult magazines, we were told that the sausages were under the counter. I could almost imagine the butcher looking both ways to check before drawing customers close so they could hear him whisper "want any sausages mate?"

Those of you who frequent other purveyors of meat can expect similar problems in the future as the Health and Safety inspectors do the rounds. Don't worry though, it won't mean that the meat they sell is dodgy; just not labelled correctly.

PS I'd like to bet that the neighbour either read the original story on my blog or heard it from someone else who had.

More music to your ears

Following the concert tonight by the Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro at the Auditorio Municipal "Francisco Grau" in Bigastro, you can visit Torrevieja to listen to its town band on Sunday.

The Unión Musical Torrevejense will be presenting their concert to honour Santa Cecilia in the Municipal Teatro-Auditorio at 12:oo noon. Entrance will be free by tickets which can be obtained from the ticket office at the Auditorium.

New hours

Please note the new opening hours for the Ayuntamiento in Bigastro starting Monday, 26th of November.

* Mondays to Fridays: from 9:00am to 2:00 pm
* Mondays: from 5pm to 7pm

Friday, November 23, 2007

A great idea

I've been asked to pass the following message on to residents at Villas Andrea:-

A group of residents in Villas Andrea have decided that, instead of sending Christmas cards to all friends and neighbours, we will make a donation of the money saved to AECC (sometimes known as Contra Cancer) to help their appeal to purchase a new, very advanced scanner for breast screening.

If you would like to be part of this appeal and make a donation, there will be collecting boxes at:-

41 C/Alemania
65 C/Cañada de Andrea
5 C/ Inglaterra
15 C/ Escocia
27 C/ Holandia
and at the Albergue

Thank you in anticipation for any donation you feel you want to make towards this very worthwhile and important appeal.

Wishing you joy and happiness at Christmas and throughout the New Year.

Sounds good to me. Just think you won't have to buy the cards, write them, deliver them and then worry about whether you have missed someone out.

No need to go out for the paper

Pamela enjoys the free English papers that you get here on the Costa Blanca. Whenever we go out shopping, she tries to find copies of The Leader, The Round Town News and The CoastRider. Of course, each of these papers has a website where you can read many of the articles online but not the whole paper. The Round Town News has now solved that problem on its new website with a clever mix of Javascript and Macromedia Flash.

Go to the paper's website and click on the ONLINE PAPER menu at the top of the page and you can view any or all of the editions of the paper as they are printed. Once you have selected a paper to view, you'll find a navigation bar at the bottom which allows you to choose a particular page or move forward and backwards through the paper.

To give you the feel of having an actual paper though, RTN have incorporated a snazzy feature which allows you to use your mouse to turn the pages. As you hover over the top corners they start to curl. If you then drag the corner, the page will turn with your mouse. Once you have the page you want; a click of the mouse will bring up a full size version for you to read. All very clever stuff.

So, if you miss getting a copy of the paper, or you want to see the other editions, they are all there waiting for you at the click of your mouse.

PS I forgot to mention; at the very top of he screen you will see three buttons; red, blue and green. Click on those and you can change the background colour of the web page. Come on Round Town News, even for me, that feature is a bit over the top!