Monday, April 30, 2007

Travel light

Low cost airline, Ryanair, has been accused of using faulty weighing scales in a Spanish airport, resulting in more excess baggage charges being imposed on the customer.

An investigation into the matter at Girona airport (just outside Barcelona city) found that a bag which had weighed 14.6kg in the UK (just under the 15kg baggage allowance) weighed 17kg on the return journey – 2kg overweight (€16 excess baggage fee).

Many passengers have claimed that their baggage miraculously increased in weight on a return journey, despite nothing having been added and in some cases, items removed.

A spokesperson for Ryanair has denied the claims saying that contrary to popular belief, the airline does not set targets or give commission for excess baggage charges. The airline also added that all of their airport weighing scales are checked by an independent body.

As air fares have been cut due to competition it seems that some airlines have had to find other ways to make their profits. One way of course is to cut down on luggage allowances thus increasing the excess baggage charges. BMI Baby, Easyjet and Monarch allow 20kgms per person, now allows 18kgms, but Ryanair is at the bottom of the league with 15kgms per person.

In addition many airlines say you can carry cabin luggage up to 55x40x20cm in size with no weight restriction. Of course if you are flying from the UK, you need to be careful what you pack in your cabin luggage. In any case it is hard to fill a bag that size with anything heavy.

So the cheap flight suddenly becomes less of a bargain when you have added on airport taxes, fuel surcharges and then excess baggage.

Too much fruit

They say you can't eat too much fruit but you can certainly grow too much.

In the Vega Baja region 47,000 metric tonnes of citrus fruit were grown this year and the majority of it has been left to rot. Only a small percentage of producers have bothered to pick their fruit in what should have been a bumper year for growers.

Growers would normally be picking their crops of oranges, lemons, tangerines and clementines towards the end of January to mid-February. The conditions were very favourable with mild temperatures over the winter, sunshine and wet conditions. The result was a a bumper crop.
In fact with advice from growing associations and new hybrid varieties being cultivated the yearly yield in the citrus sector has become a victim of its own success. There were just too many oranges out there and the price has subsequently dropped.

Growers are paid between 5 and 9 centimos a kilo for their citrus fruit. It costs 15 centimos a kilo to produce. Suppliers are charging manufacturers and sellers 51 centimos a kilo and at the point of sale the average price of citrus fruit is €1.32. That is a mark-up of 2,540%.

California suffered a spell of freezing weather in January that obliterated their, usually healthy, crop of oranges so Spain has exported 150,000 metric tonnes of oranges to America to make up this shortfall and still fruit is rotting in the fields.

When interviewed, a farmer’s wife in Albatera said, “We would normally employ casual labour to pick for us but it’s not worth the cost. We can’t compete with imports from Morocco even though we employ Moroccans to pick for us.” That is approximately 20 pickers unemployed this season. The farmer makes no money and nor do the itinerant workers who move around relying on picking for their livelihood. Albafruits has suffered as well. They are the central distribution point for the fruit in Albatera, the whole economy of the town has become subdued. “We won’t be spending any money,” she said. “We have to look to the future and if things do not improve who knows how long our farm will survive especially at our age.” In their fifties and managing approximately ten hectares of fruit trees there is just the two of them to prepare the trees for the next crop. Standing there, amongst the trees, on a rainy, cold March day the sound of flies buzzing under the canopy of leaves was ever present. This year there will be an excess of flies if nothing else. Without effective support the rural way of life on your doorstep may soon no longer be economically viable and that could mean more land owners selling up to developers as trees are bulldozed to make way for concrete and golf courses.

A winner

This is the list of winners from the "This is Spain" exhibition.

Julie Blenman - Christophers - Sunday Lunch for two
Mrs T Scott - Honeys Via Park III - Sunday lunch for two
Pauline Dicken - The Bite Via Park V - Pizza of your choice
Mr & Mrs Syred - Hair Studio - Gents Haircut
Tracy Jarrett - Sunrise - Meal for Two
Mrs L Whittaker - Bar Catorce - 3 Course Sunday lunch x 2
Terri Lewis - Tylers - Steak meal x 2 (Tues Eve)
Claire Harverson - Property Shop - 2 bottles of wine
Karen Cobbold - Haco - 20 euro voucher
S Phillips - Health & Beauty Academy - 20 euro voucher
Steve Witts - Callums - Meal
Hazel Dowsett - Tonetastic - 5 free sessions
Sue Baron - Strandz - Free eyebrow shape
Marie Joy Davies - Centro Montesinos - Free Massage
June Greatorey - Inn the Dog House - Hamper
Keith Williamson - British Auto Centre - Mini Service
Alan Bushe - British Auto Centre - Full car valet
J Dorsett - Carls Bar - 20 euro meal voucher
Brian Deakin - Del Boys - Hamper
S Clements - Snacks 2 Go - Cava gift set
Pam Donovan - Fashions 4 U - 12.50 euro voucher x 2
Ray Whittaker - OK UK - Tin of biscuits
Liz Cogan - Action Signs - 1 personalised T-Shirt
M Williams - Mr Lamb - 10 euro meat voucher
Cath Brocklebank - Peaches & Cream - 10 euro voucher
Mrs A Plenderleigh - BB´s Florist - 10 euro voucher
A Barlow - Eurofreeze - 10 euro voucher
A Crouch - Jumpin Jacks - Bottle of whiskey
Alan Gifford - Shivum - Early bird special for two
T Slight - Rubys - Early bird special for two
A Mellor - Fiesta Fiesta - Two balloon bouquet
Mr J Hynd - Callum´s Bar - Meal for two on Steak Night
D M Mayes - Pampered Pets - Bottle of red wine
Sandra Jackson - Creative Nails - Free Pedicure
Val - Harp - Dinner for 2 - Sat Cabaret Night
Baz Winwood - Lakeside Carvery - meal for 2
Muriel Bell - Sackos - Meal for 2 and bottle wine
Sue Smith - Hairzone - Cut and blow dry
T Upman - Touch n Glow - Free spray tan
Eileen Eaton - Renault - Free entry to Clio Cup 2007
A Clark - Hotel Costa Narejo - Free overnight stay
Rene Lines - Ryans -mBuy one menu-del-dia & get one half price
Karl Leeming - Bargain Books - Barcelona & Catalonia Book

It looks like I have won a mini service from the British Auto Centre. Since my Skoda is only a month or so old I'm not sure what to do with that prize! Still it is good to win something.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Gardener's corner

I don't recall seeing gazanias in any of the market gardens in England however I know you can buy seeds from English suppliers so I imagine they tolerate cooler climates.

Apparently there is a perennial version as well as the annual one. I think ours are annuals but it doesn't matter because they set seed easily.

The ones we have at the moment I grew from seed last year. Hopefully they will flower throughout the summer and provide us with a lot more seed for next year's plants.

Apart from the colours here, we have various shades of pinks and blood reds.

One of the joys of these plants is that you don't know what colour the flowers will be until they open and of course they only open when the sun comes out.

A good read

Bigastro was apparently one of the first towns in the area to have a mobile library service dating back to 1935.

In 1961 the library moved to one of the halls on the ground floor of the Town Hall.

On the 28th of March 1987 the library, of almost 11,000 books, transferred to the Centro Social Integrado.

When the new Auditorio Municipal "Francisco Grau" opened last year, the library moved to its present location.

The new library has over 15,000 books along with periodicals, newspapers and internet linked computers.

Apart from the reference section, all of the books are available for loan - a maximum of 3 for up to 15 days.

Finding what you want is easy because you can search for a particular book via the online catalogue which lists all of books available in every library in Alicante. Using this system, the reader can request a book from any of the libraries in the province.

For a copy of the form to get a reader card click on this link.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

3.2m € becomes 12m€

Yesterday the Popular Party of Bigastro blamed the mayor, Jose Joaquin Moya, for concealing within the project for a rural hotel at the Pedrera a "plan parcial" without the permission of the Generalitat.

Aurelio Murcia explained yesterday that the City council auctioned 50,000 square meters of rustic land at the Pedrera for 3.2m euros.

The company that won the ground auction has yielded the rights of the project, which was for a rural hotel and spa, to another company which is now advertising 260 tourist apartments on its web page. Once sold, the apartments would be worth almost 12m euros.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Did the earth move for you

A seismic movement of 2.6 on Richter was registered at dawn yesterday in Hondón de las Nieves. Luckily there was neither personal nor material damage according to the Centro Sismológico Euro-Mediterráneo. The tremor was registered at 04.33am and its epicenter was located at 38.28 degrees north and 0.86 west. That means it was two kilometers to the south of Hondón de las Nieves and five kilometers northwest of Crevillent and up to 16 kilometers to the west of Elche.

The small magnitude of the seismic movement and the hour in which it took place meant that most people didn't notice it. I imagine some of the fireworks they set off would have a greater impact than that.

Blanca faces

To be honest our rehearsals for Blanca Nieves y los siete enanitos are progressing slowly. Possibly because of the changes in stage direction, there are a few people still struggling with the lines. The background changes and the music cues are also a bit muddled which doesn't help.

From having seven Spanish dwarfs we now seem to have four Spanish dwarfs and two English dwarfs. I think everyone would agree that the English dwarfs have improved the performance no end. At last the dwarfs have started to act angry when they find someone has been in their house which is good.

So we are getting there slowly but it could be some time before we are ready to perform to an audience!!

So near yet so far

I called Telefonica on their free phone number yesterday to find out what was happening with my order for a phone.

It appears that they have tried to contact me three times, the latest being on Wednesday, to arrange for installation. The number they were calling though dates back to our application in November 2004 which of course included the number from the mobile that was stolen. I've now given them my mobile number and hopefully will get a call soon.

Since the order dates back to 2004, I just hope they realise we now have a landline infrastructure and don't plan to install a radio phone. When I get the call that is the first thing I will ask!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bottom gun

The fishing boat "David y Francisco" belonging to the Brotherhood of Santa Pola found an old cannon barrel.

They found the cannon twenty miles of the coast in front of the bay of Santa Pola on Tuesday. The barrel which is about 2.5m long is made from one piece of sweet iron. At the moment it is covered in shells and sediment so it is not possible to be too precise about its age or what it came from but it is thought to have come from a muzzle loading gun which would have been used on a galleon in the 17th century.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Body beautiful?

On the 5th of May Bigastro is holding the VI interregional Championship of culturismo and fitness in the municipal sports centre .

This guy probably has to spend his whole life in his speedos because he can't get shirts to fit him. Is his body beautiful? Jose looks OK but this one seems overcooked to me.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Very interesting

Quite a few people turned up at the meeting last night with Aurelio, the PP candidate in the forthcoming elections. It must have been very encouraging for him to see so many people showing an interest.

Initially here was a bit of a delay getting the key for the room so Aurelio sent us all off to the bar to have a drink on him. That was a good start. How many election candidates do you recall buying you a beer?

Once the meeting started, Aurelio pointed out that he did not want to use this time to canvass our votes rather he wanted to find out what our concerns were about living in Bigastro. He would use the points we raised to help him set out his agenda.

There were many interesting points expressed, some which were related just to Villas Andrea but amongst them were a number of genuine concerns about living in Bigastro.

Some examples:-
  • The noise from the Metro disco club.
  • The problems in communicating at the Centro de Salud without an interpreter.
  • The cleanliness of the streets.
  • The difficulties in finding parking.
Aurelio explained the problems that Bigastro faces under the present administration:-
  • The council's expenditure exceeds its income. Municipal land has been sold to offset the deficit. This is born out by the Council's own accounts which show that 2,530,249€ of land was sold off in 2005 to balance the books.
  • The council is overstaffed in some areas and understaffed in others e.g. there are too few police officers for the present population.
  • The town is being allowed to grow too fast. Services cannot keep up with the population growth. Again this is born out by the statistics which show that in the five years from 2000 to 2005 the population increased by 1,408 - almost 28%. A bigger problem is that this growth is accelerating - e.g. from 2004 to 2005 the increase in population was 849.
He explained that it was not possible to raise the local taxes which were already at the limit. The only way to balance the books is to reduce council expenditure. Once all the "family silver" i.e. the council land is sold there is no other way to prevent bankruptcy.

He also suggested that many of the plans for development proposed by the current administration should be stopped or at least slowed down so that the provision of services could catch up.

Aurelio told us that once he had formulated his plan for Bigastro he would ensure that we would all have copies written in English. He encouraged us to read carefully the policies of the other two parties in the election and to make up our minds then based on their proposals. Most important though, he encouraged all us to exercise our right to vote.

So many thanks to Aurelio for a very informative meeting and of course for the beer!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Time to be counted

We had letters delivered last night on behalf or Aurelio Murcia, the PP candidate for the Mayoral elections to be held on 27th May. He is inviting English residents of Bigastro to a meeting tonight in the Centro Social Integrado at 7:00pm.

As I have said before the present mayor José Joaquín Moya got in by 84 votes at the last elections. So on that basis the votes of the residents at Villas Andrea could make all the difference.

Aurelio speaks and writes in very good English. He lives just down the road from our house. He therefore has a vested interest in our needs but will he get your vote? Maybe we should make the effort to attend the meeting and see what he has to say.

Enough to make your teeth rot

The Union of Pasteleros Alicante created a giant cake to celebrate the first year of the shopping centre Ociopía in Orihuela.

The cake had seven layers and was 2 metres high. The twelve pasteloros who made it used 500kgms of almond cake, 200kgms of chocolate, 400kgms of fresh cream and 60kgms of meringue to create the confection. Over 2,000 portions were distributed to the shoppers on Saturday afternoon.

There were other treats over the weekend for visitors to Ociopía including live music, theatre and of course fireworks.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Olympic torch?

In spite of the threat of rain the athletes carried the torch around the town.

I'm not quite sure where Bigastro got them from but they weren't the high tech torches designed for the next Olympics.

This should be better

Those who visited the "This is Spain" exhibition at Los Montesinos may well have come away disappointed. There seemed to be fewer exhibitors this year than in the past.

This show promises to be much better - more like the BBC Good Home Shows that are held annually at the NEC Birmingham. They even have people like Kevin Woodford, Jilly Goolden, Handy Andy and Eric Knowles on hand to offer expert advice so no language problems for those who can't speak Spanish.

It should be easy to find following these directions:-

The Exhibition Center of Alicante (IFA) is located at km 731 on N-340 state highway going from Alicante to Elche and only a few minutes away from Alicante International Airport. There is direct access to IFA at exit 72 of the Mediterranean Spanish A-7 highway going from Alicante to Murcia.

Working late

I got a message from one of my neighbours to say that Telefonica had just installed his phone. That was at 10:05pm on a Saturday night. Just imagine the overtime bill those guys will be clocking up.

I would be interested to know if anyone has taken Telefonica's ADSL package and if so what speed they are getting from the connection.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Burn one day; rust the next

The weather here is definitely not settled yet. Yesterday was glorious, today the forecast is for rain. Looking out, the sky is grey with no sign of the sun. So perhaps it isn't quite time yet to put the coats away in storage.

On another note; the installation of phones has turned out to be a bit of a damp squib. I don't know whether anybody has actually had their phone installed yet but I do know of a few people who thought they were but haven't. Having waited three years, I don't suppose a few more days will matter.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Do you have the right balls?

Then you could win in the Beneficial Bingo session on Sunday, 22nd of April from 5pm at the Cafeteria Vaiven. The Asociación de Familiares de Enfermos de Alzheimer "Acuerdate de mi" de Bigastro will be the beneficiary of your support.

Best to brush up on your Spanish numbers though because you wouldn't want to miss a full house. I wonder if they shout Bingo or Casa.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

22 men kicking a ball

We were discussing the cost of going to watch a match at Barcelona with our teacher.

I think we misunderstood when she told us it cost 176€ for the best seats. One hundred and seventy six euros is in fact the cost for two seats in the first and second tiers of the Grandstand. Members would pay 70€ each for the same seats. Up in the Gods the cost drops to 30€ each or 24€ for members but you would need binoculars to see the players from up there.

When you factor in the cost of travel to Barcelona and back that is an expensive evening out just to watch a game of football.

I'd rather go for a meal out at 30€!

At last

Several people had phone calls from Telefonica today to say that they are coming tomorrow to install their phones. So it can only be a matter of days before all of those who have ordered a phone will be contacted.

Some people have waited over three years for this to happen. Let's hope there are no hitches at this stage.

Be aware

Echoing the experience of one couple on our estate, the Vecinos Colaborando - Orihuela Costa have issued this warning.

“All visitors to the beaches on the Orihuela Costa in vehicles and indeed elsewhere should be especially careful as to what is left in the vehicle whilst it is left for a period of time. We have received reports of vehicles having been broken into on different beaches where house keys, house alarms and safe keys have been stolen.

It must be remembered that by law, vehicle documents must be kept in the vehicle and these give the driver's or hirer's address. Things could not be made easier for the thief and on occasions the car is used to visit the house concerned and to take property away.

Additional advice is not to leave anything, no matter the value, in view within a locked car as the cost of repairing the damage done is usually far in excess of the value of the property stolen.”

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Olympic torch in Bigastro

On Sunday 22nd of April, starting at 12:00am from the Plaza de la Constitution, all the schools, clubs and sport associations of Bigastro will be accompanying the Olympic torch for the Association of Sportsmen Against Drugs. The procession around the streets will finally arrive at the Municipal Park Huerta del Cura.

Nine outstanding sportsmen and women from the town have been selected to participate in carrying the torch.

Feeding the worms

According to the Bigastro web site, on the 23 of April, 1616 three great writers of universal literature; Miguel de Cervantes, William Shakespeare and Garcilaso de la Vega passed away. That is apparently why UNESCO chose 23rd April to commemorate books.

The Council of Culture and Library in Bigastro have organized, for the 21st and 22nd April, their second "International Library Day" to be held in the Parque Municipal Huerto del Cura.

Actually Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare did both die on the 23rd April 1616 but apparently Garcilaso de la Vega passed away on the 14th October 1536 so I'm not quite sure why he is included.

Never mind I imagine there will be a lot of interesting books to peruse.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Thank you England for sharing some of your glorious weather with us.

Yesterday the sun shone for most of the day. It was so welcome after all the bad weather we have been having. Sad to say, according to my neighbour, it isn't going to last. He claims that it is going to rain again on Wednesday but then his source is the BBC. There is no mention of rain on Meteo, the Spanish weather channel. So I think I'll stick to their forecast.

A day too late

Top marks to the Ayuntamiento for putting a notice through our gates about the Lugereco (ecological market) translated into English. Unfortunately they delivered the notes the day after the market was held. They obviously applied the principle of manana to the task.

Still people at Villas Andrea will now know that every fourth Sunday there is a programme of entertainment down in the town square.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Ok, ok

We've got the picture now. Every phone call and every email from England it's the same thing. "What's the weather like there?" This is followed by "it is lovely and sunny here - 24 degrees at least".

Well the weather here is **** It is possibly the worst spell of weather we have had since we arrived in November '04. First it was gales, then rain, then the gales returned and now we are back to rain.

I always rub it in when I speak to people in England with comments like "how nice to wear your shorts in February" or "I've just had a refreshing dip in the pool" knowing full well that it is freezing in the UK so I deserve these comments.

As I pointed out to one of my ex colleagues though, it will change. The difference is that here it will get better and in England it will get worse.

Actually I am glad that the weather is nice for you in the UK. With all the other rubbish you have to put up with it is good to have something worth getting up for in the morning. Now instead of the weather let's talk about the price of beer, petrol, council tax etc etc. Or maybe the crazy application of all things politically correct.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The story behind our connection problems

Today we went up to the Pedrera to pay our money for April's connection. Keith McClure's parents, who live on Calle Alemania, were there to collect the fees on his behalf. They told us that Keith will now maintain the connection because he has sufficient customers to cover his costs. So that is good news. The bad news is that there are still people who now cannot use their VoIP phones because of the changes that Keith has made to the system.

Residents from El Raso came of worse though. They had their internet and satellite telephone connection severed in December 2006. Some of them had only been connected for barely a week having paid 449€ for the privilege. The companies involved were Wi-Surf and Clear Communication SL now both a thing of the past.

Barry Leeson, who was the originator of Clear Communications, sold his company to Keith McClure and it became Clear Communications SL, a registered Spanish company. For this McClure paid a five figure sum. According to Keith McClure he had bought all the dishes, routers, transmitters and lines from Barry Leeson as well as his company. McClure then employed Leeson, provided him with transport, a salary and a two year contract.

Barry Leeson is now facing a court case for theft and fraud. According to Keith McCLure, Leeson paid himself 6,600 euros clearing all funds from the Clear Communications SL bank account and quit just before Christmas.

The resultant lack of funds meant that all Wi- Surf and Clear Communications SL customers lost their connections. No line rental could be paid to Telefonica and they cut them off.

Keith McClure is also interested in his satellite dish that connects all the wireless internet connections from users to the Telefonica lines. He says he owns these and accuses Barry Leeson of treating them as his own to the extent of moving the main dish to another building in Almoradi.

Keith McClure was a 30 per cent shareholder in Wi-Surf. He also owned 100% of Clear Communications SL. He claims that Barry Leeson had not only taken funds from the company bank account that were not due to him, has left customers with no connection but is now using the equipment he sold to Keith to set up another internet company. This is the fraud element of the denuncia issued by Keith. It would appear that the resolution to this problem will lie with the courts.

Keith McClure claims to have lost thousands of euros in this venture which is why he was considering pulling the plug on our connection. The last straw was obviously realising that a number of customers hadn't paid for the five months of service they had received since November.

Make a few bob

Have you got one of these lurking in the loft?

Apparently they are now collectible and fetch up to £400 on EBay.

My first computer was a 48k Sinclair Spectrum. You had to connect a tape player to the computer to load the programs. Often the process would fail and you had to start again. It had horrible rubber keys and worked in 16 colours. I had the little thermal printer that went with it. That burnt a copy of my programs onto a roll of silver paper. Three weeks later the image had faded away to nothing!

I bought a joystick that connected via an interface you had to program for each game. Eventually I also bought a Sinclair microdrive and a proper keyboard to house the computer in.

Then I had a Sinclair QL, an Amstrad PCW, four Apple computers before moving to Microsoft Windows.

It is hard to imagine the progress that has been made since my Spectrum. My new computer has over 40,000 times more memory than the Spectrum but will still be obsolete in a few years time.

Could be a busy day

The next ecological market is being held in Bigastro on Sunday. Again there will be various demonstrations and opportunities to sample goods on offer.

This weekend we also have the 'This is Spain' exhibition at Los Montesinos. The exhibition opened on Friday but apparently was packed out with long queues waiting to get in. We hope that Sunday will be a little quieter.

So that is the plan for Sunday: Lugereco followed by This is Spain.

Sounds like a lot of shopping to me!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Aurelio Murcia

It seems that our neighbour Aurelio is to stand as candidate for the PP(conservative) party in the forthcoming local elections. Aurelio is of course the builder who had responsibility for the construction of Villas Andrea. He was president of the Asociación de Constructores y Promotores de la Vega Baja (Procosta) but has apparently resigned from that position to concentrate on his campaign.

The current mayor, José Joaquín Moya, who represents the PSOE (socialist) party, has held the position for a number of years but only got in by 84 votes during 2003 elections.

In the last two years the socialist local government has been under a lot of pressure with accusations of supposed irregularities by the Popular Party and the new grouping of the Green parties. Alleged corruption seems to be a key feature of local politics here in Spain.

The current Prime Minister of Spain, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero represents the PSOE in National Government. It is said that Zapetero only gained election after the PP party lost favour days before the elections because of their handling of the Madrid train bombings. Apparently that is not true. The PP were loosing ground in the run up to the elections before that date.

Lady luck on our side

Yesterday we went down to Lomas de Cabo Roig to see Chris and Linda in their new house. The weather was perfect - blue skies and warm sunshine. Such a change from the rain and grey skies they have suffered during their visit.

After a nice lunch that Linda prepared, Chris and I went for a walk around the estate. The girls sat out in the front enjoying the sun. Chris and I came back past the house and the girls called to say that coffee was ready.

Whilst Chris and I were just looking at the top part of the estate, a man came past the house in a green car and shouted "hola" to the girls. The next thing he was wandering round the communal pool at the side of the house. He called the girls over to explain that they were putting balustrade on top of the wall between the house and the pool area. He told them that the van which was parked on a neighbour's drive would have to be moved. Next thing he received a phone call which he said was to say that the lorry with the balustrade was arriving and the man quickly disappeared.

The girls went back into the house only to find that both of their handbags had been stolen from the lounge. Obviously as the guy was distracting the girls, his accomplice was in the house taking what he could quickly find.

In Pam's bag were her glasses, a purse with about 10€, her Spanish cards including her residencia, her mobile phone, diary and her house keys. There was also a card with our address on. In Linda's bag there was all her jewellery including her wedding and engagement rings, her mobile phone, 600€ in cash, some English money and her UK credit cards.

Once we realised that Pam's keys had gone and that the thieves had our address we decided to quickly get back home to prevent any further problems. We stopped the cards and I checked online to make sure that they had not been used. We phoned the police and found that we need to go to Pilar de Horadada to the Guardia office. I then went down to the builder's to arrange for new locks. Fortunately the locksmith who had fitted our locks was in the area and we arranged for him to meet me at 7:15pm outside the builder's office.

As I was driving back to the house, I got a phone call from our daughter Jemma to say that a girl had found both bags on Cabo Roig beach. She had found Pam's funeral card with Jemma's mobile number on it. We quickly phoned the girl to ascertain what was still in the bag and thankfully the keys were. Jemma had been having problems with her phone. She only got her replacement yesterday. If Jemma still had the old phone the girl couldn't have contacted her and we might never have got the bag back.

I cancelled the locksmith and we quickly drove down to Cabo Roig to meet the girl who handed over the bags and their contents. Of course Pam's mobile phone and the cards had gone but her residencia card was still there and more important the keys. Unfortunately Linda had lost all her jewellery and the money which we felt very badly about.

We couldn't thank the young girl and her younger brothers enough. She restored our faith in humanity. What luck a) Jemma had her replacement phone and b) such a kind person just happened to find the bags. We were more than pleased to reward the young girl for her trouble and repay her mobile phone costs.

So a salutory lesson. Never leave your house door open even when you are in the garden and don't trust strangers or be distracted by them. For sure Chris and Linda will never forget their first holiday in Cabo Roig.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Learning curve

I am no expert on VoIP but I am learning fast!

VoIP uses specific ports to transmit information - first to register the account with the VoIP provider and then to transmit the voice call in digitised format. These were all open before Clear Comms. introduced their new login system.

VoIPtalk's proxy server is at on port 5065 which is fine. Port 5004 which is used for RTP is also open. Some of the other ports that are required for VoIP are obviously closed or are retricted.

My Grandstream phone is set to use a non default port for the local SIP connection. The port it uses is still open which is why the old phone works. I suspect that port 5060, which is the default port for VoIP, has been either closed or restricted. That is possibly why my Siemens phone connects to VoIPtalk but won't register. The other interesting thing is that Siemens server for updates is unavailable.

Even though the old phone works, the call quality is back to being poor.

We are going up to see Keith McClure again today to pay for April's connection so I'll see what he says.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Phone back at last

After a frustrating six days without a phoneline I decided to reconnect the Grandstream VoIP phone. To my great surprise it worked, found an IP address, connected to VoIPtalk and registered with them. We can both make and receive calls.

So this is now a real mystery. After an evening's fiddling with the settings I'd got the new Siemens phone working perfectly. It went down when Clear Comms changed the login system and hasn't worked since.

Now the old phone works so there must be something in the settings for the new phone that needs changing again but exactly what I have no idea. I'm wading in a sea of stun servers, outbound proxies and voice codecs.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

More water

The delays caused by the opposing political parties in Torrevieja have been resolved. So the desalination plant at Torrevieja will now go ahead. This will improve the management of water resources in the regions of Vega Baja, part of Murcia and the south of the province of Alicante. These plans, which will cost 40 million euros, will help to guarantee the supply of water in a zone where 2.3 million inhabitants live.

The main infrastructure will provide drinking water from new desalination plant at San Pedro del Pinatar and the future one at Torrevieja to thirteen municipalities of the province, all of the region and to a the city of Murcia.

This work will affect the municipal towns of San Miguel de Salinas, Jacarilla, Bigastro and Orihuela. The connection between the water treatment plant of the Pedera and Torrealta (La Murada) will have a pumping station with a maximum volume of 2,100litre/sec. and 39 kilometers of metal pipe of up to 1.2 meters of diameter.

Also there are plans to spend 8,291,886 euros over 18 months to provide a connection that will provide desalinated water derived from the system Pedrera-Torrealta to Murcia, with a population of more than 400,000 inhabitants. This connection will run between Orihuela, Santomera and Murcia a distance of 25 kilometers with a 1,000 litre/sec. capacity.

In addition 6,717,823 euros will be spent on creating two new security dams and one elevating station at the Pedrera water treatment plant. The objective is to increase the guaranteed drinking water for the municipalities in the south of the province including San Vicente de la Raspeig and Santa Pola . These dams will be located in the area of Orihuela and will have a joint capacity of 750,000 ms 3.

To this system will also be added an investment of 4,003,378 euros to guarantee supply to the 200,000 extra summer inhabitants of the area.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Foiled again

We had planned to go down to Torrevieja for the Medieval Market today but the weather is diabolical. Rain and more rain. The forecast for tomorrow is no better. I feel sorry for Chris and Linda who are out here for their first holiday in their new home at Lomas de Cabo Roig.

At least it was dry for the fireworks this morning which were to celebrate the resurrection. They started at 8:00am which is a bit more respectable than the 7:30am start last year.

Next the farmers will be complaining that the crops are rotting in the soggy ground.

Doctors online

We can now make doctor's appointments online by clicking on this link.

The information required is your SIP card number and date of birth. I've just tried it out and it works. Well at least for Pamela who had an appointment last week it does.

Apparently we should be able to view, make and change appointments using this ABUCASIS system. Well that will be better than having to drive down to make an appointment and then driving back again to attend it.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

No parade

Last night when the Viernes Santa procession in Orihuela was cancelled it was re-scheduled for this morning at 10:00am. Now at 9:30 it was pouring down and still heavily overcast by 10:00. So sadly they cancelled the procession altogether. Looks like we will have to wait until next year to see the pasos in Orihuela.

I should have then gone on to say that by 10:30 the skies cleared and the rest of the day was lovely and warm but by then it was too late. Everybody had gone home, the streets had been re-opened to traffic and they were collecting in the thousands of chairs that had been put out for people to sit on.

New Corvera airport

Murcia region is to have a new airport to rival San Javier.

San Javier belongs to the national airport operator, Aena, while Corvera is a project of the Murcia region itself. The contract for the new airport has been awarded to the Aeromur consortium, which is lead by the Sacyr group. The airport will be built and operated over a 40-year concession period. The new airport is expected to receive its first flights in 2009. Low cost airlines were quick to react to the announcement, with reports that within hours of the award, Jet2 and Easyjet had been in contact with the winning consortium that has been talking with some 15 budget airlines over the past few months.

The big attraction of the new airport at Corvera is that it will operate 24-hours a day - unlike San Javier which is restricted mainly to afternoon and evening operations as the facility is shared with the Spanish air force.

Corvera will feature one runway with a modern passenger terminal, parking and all other facilities. The terminal will have an area of 28,000 square metres with nine air bridges allowing direct access to aircraft. The construction cost is estimated at 185 million euros.

The forecast usage for the opening year is five million passengers, with this rising to nine million in 2015 and more than 14 million in 2030.

Corvera is located near Fuente Alamo, and is well placed to serve the whole of Murcia. It is also close to motorways connecting to Alicante, so Aena could face competition for its airport there as well as at San Javier from an aggressive new private operator.

The rain in Spain

After heavy overnight rain, yesterday was was mainly dry. So we set off with Rachel, David, John and Jean to Orihuela for the Viernes Santa procession. We found a good place to sit and watch right beneath the TV cameras. As we sat, more and more nazarenos passed to join their cofradias.

It was drizzling and the skies looked very heavy. At that point the nazarenos started to come back and we realised there was a problem. A very helpful man explained to us that the parade was postponed until 10:00 today because of the weather. So we beat a hasty retreat to a bar that John knows. Just in time because as we looked out of the window there was a thunderstorm brewing.

The pasos that they carry in these parades are probably priceless. Many of the sculpted figures date back two centuries. I hope they managed to wheel them back into the museum in time to beat the rain.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The actual weather

I've had a comment sent to me asking about the actual weather here as opposed to that reported by the BBC.

Well at best I would say it was iffy. Definitely not warm and sunny as it was at this time last year. When he sun does break through it is very pleasant - shorts and t-shirt stuff but otherwise it is overcast and cold at best.

We do know that it will get better but we don't know when!

Update It just poured down with rain for about twenty minutes. It is very overcast and looks as though it could well rain again soon.

Getting ready for the real thing

The children play at being nazarenos complete with robes, capotes and capas in a range of colours.

Good and bad

Wednesday evening our connection to internet was cut off. That meant that the phone went down as well. When I checked on my computer there was a login screen from Clear Communications. Of course I neither had a username nor password so couldn't get in.

Yesterday morning we went up to our meeting with Keith McClure from Clear Communications. Obviously he had cut us off to ensure that we would all attend and pay our 35€ for March's connection.

Once he had fed all our details into the system we were able to log on and get back on to the Internet but we couldn't use the phone. Obviously you can't log a phone onto the system and in any case his software restricts users to one connection. So a mixed blessing at the moment. What was working fine now is causing us a lot of grief.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Siemens phone

Our new Siemens phone arrived yesterday and after working to solve all the problems that we had with our friend Michael's phone, I was able to set it up quickly.

There are configuration settings for a range of VoIP providers stored in the phone but not ones for VoIPtalk. The best we could do was to apply the settings for a different provider and then change the details to make a connection to VoIPtalk. There are obviously some subtle differences between providers though.

What we found with Michael's phone and initially with mine was that we could make calls and speak to the person at the other end and they could hear us. When people tried to return the call though the phone would ring but all they got at their end was a number unavailable tone and at our end nothing.

I went through the settings again on our phone changing them and then changing them back and suddenly bingo it worked. Now I only tried it once by phoning our number from my mobile so we might not be out of the woods yet but at least we know that it can work.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Little Britain

Apparently we have an English couple running the bar at the Pedrera who I understand are trying to charge English prices and are serving English measures of spirits.

Perhaps we ought to consider other things we could do to Anglicise the area.

The first step would be to change the name from Urb. Villas Andrea to Andrea Housing Estate. Then we could change the names of the roads, get rid of the Spanish Calle bit and call them England Street, German Road etc. and in the case of Escocia - Scotland Cul de Sac which would be very appropriate considering the state it is in at the moment. Of course we would insist that people drive on the left whilst they were in the area and would have a border patrol where passports would be shown.

Later we could organise a car boot sale each Sunday on one of the pieces of unused land and perhaps open a fish and chip shop on one of the others.

There would be a downside though. For example, we would need to pay English council tax rates and have umpteen wheelie bins outside each house with fines for putting rubbish in the wrong bin. Hordes of teenagers would hang around on street corners each night hurling abuse at us. I'm sure you can think of many other equally undesirable consequences.

On second thoughts, perhaps we ought to leave it as it is a part of a lovely Spanish village. After all that is the reason we came to live here isn't it?

¡Muchas gracias!

A very big thank you to all those people who sent Pam a card or a text message or an email or a present or phoned her up. You really did make her day very special yesterday. She didn't get a badge that said "I am 60" but then nobody would have believed it anyway looking at the smile on her face.

The first call Pam had was from her Father at 9:00am. Normally Pam is still fast asleep at that time but I had to wake her because he couldn't wait to wish her a Happy Birthday. She was thrilled to bits to hear his voice and so glad that he had remembered.

From there is just got better and better. I went down to the post office and came back with a bag full of cards and packages. Throughout the day she had text messages, emails and phone calls galore. She even got cards left in the gate including a beautiful hand made one from Les and Sheila Rowlands. My that lady is talented.

So once again many, many thanks.

Monday, April 02, 2007

A very special day

Of course today is Pam's birthday but not just any old birthday. Today Pam has reached the glorious age of 60.

From now on she is not just jubilado she is a pensionista.

You can send her a text on 661298590 or phone her on 0161 660 7276 or even drop her an email on to congratulate her. Don't ask her for a loan though because she won't get her pension until the end of the month.

El Lavatorio

If you visit Orihuela for the processions of pasos on either Wednesday or Friday look out for the one depicting Jesus washing St Peter's feet.

Our Spanish teacher, Ana is a member of the cofradia and will be processing in the robes of a nazareno (white tunic and cap with a blue cape) handing out sweets to the children.

The figures on the paso were sculpted by the Murcian artist Francisco Salzillo in 1758 . The paso which carries them was built in 1962.

Palm Sunday

The sun shone brightly for the hundreds of people who joined the procession in Bigastro for Palm Sunday.

Carrying the cross at the head of the procession

The Mayor joined in (he's the one with the moustache)

Everyone was in their finest clothes

By night time it was pouring with rain.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

You knew didn't you?

That my post this morning about the computer virus was a hoax.
  1. Look at date and time I posted it
  2. Check the name I gave to the virus tanto de abril is Spanish for April Fool
For those who thought it was for real I apologise.

You missed a real treat

We were advised by ladies in the Spanish class that the local theatre group's performance of "La Corte del Faraón" would be well worth going to see. They were right. It was both hilarious and very professional in equal measures.

The story is about a theatre group in the sixties wanting to stage a play about the Pharoah. In those days, when Franco was in power such things were censored. The play is about the censorship of their performance.

We were fortunate because Aurelio, who built our houses and lives just across the road from us, is the leading member of the theatre group. He spotted us in the audience last night and came over to explain it all to us before the play commenced. With his help and our limited understanding of the language we were able to follow most of it.

It was a thoroughly good evening's entertainment.

PS Aurelio played the police commissioner and was excellent in the part.


You may have read in the IT press about the latest virus threat which is affecting Google Blogs.

I regret to say that my blog is one of those that is infected with this virus. I was only able to detect it by advanced virus scanning using multiple hueristic simulations.

Unfortunately the virus not only affects my blog but also prevents me from delecting the blog to stop other users being infected.

So the bad news is that as you are reading this your computer is being infected with the tantodeabril.exe virus.

The good news is that, according to all sources, your computer will only be infectious for one day. In other words you won't infect other people's computers after today. However, once your computer is infected it will remain infected until a solution is found. I hope to find a solution today and will post it on my blog later.