Saturday, February 28, 2009

Metrosexual does not mean gay

The first gay and lesbian football supporters' group to be officially accepted by a Spanish club has pinned its shield to the wall of Barcelona's stadium and vowed to fight prejudice in one of the world's most homophobic sports.

The member of the gay and lesbian peña have already complained to England's Football Association about the insults that were directed to David Beckham during the England- Spain match a fortnight ago in Sevilla.

Journalists were watching home fans so hard for racist abuse that they failed to notice how Beckham was subjected to a barrage of homophobic insults.

Apparently the Spanish fans spent more than a minute chanting 'Beckham maricón' ('Beckham faggot'), according to the peña's spokesman, Josep Ribes.

The "maricón" insult can be heard at almost any Spanish football ground, including Barcelona's, when Real Madrid's midfielder Guti is playing.

The weather for this next week


  sáb 28 dom 01 lun 02 mar 03 mié 04 jue 05 vie 06
  image image image image image image image
Prob. of rain 75% 35% 60% 45% 15% 15% 10%
Max Temp. 18 20 19 16 19 18 19
Min Temp. 8 9 8 9 7 10 9
Wind direct. image image image image image image image
Wind speed 11 11 7 11 25 36 36


  It looks like the glorious weather we have been IMG_0430having will be leaving us for the time being.



I guess that means we won't be having lunch  on our front porch this week


Just as well we bagged up all the prunings from the bougainvillea yesterday. Pam was right about getting the job done before it rained.

Pensioner's rights

The European Commission has opened a disciplinary file on Spain for discriminatory practices that violate EU regulations regarding member citizens’ rights to social security cover when travelling within the Union.

Although the EU healthcard should guarantee any EU pensioners full access to public healthcare and medication when travelling to another member state, the Spanish Ministry of Health says the card does not prove the holder is a pensioner. Spanish nationals do this by showing their DNI national identity card.

Spanish law does allow EU pensioners to obtain free medication, but those on holiday in Spain must produce another document released by their national social security department, that certifies they receive a state pension.

Health ministry officials claim many pensioners present documents ‘of dubious validity’. “A photocopy, at times illegible and in a language not widely understood, is not valid proof of a pensioner’s status,” says the ministry.  

The Ministry of Health has already replied to the EU ultimatum saying OAPs on holiday in Spain are required to do the same as Spanish pensioners, namely, prove they are pensioners. The suggestion is that the EU healthcard is altered to include a field showing the pensioner's status.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Some good news for shoppers

The rate of inflation in Spain for February was 0.7%, continuing the moderation of prices which started in July 2008.

This is the lowest rate since records were started in January 1997.

The supermarket chain, Mercadona  say they have lowered the price of their products by an average of 10% since October and have made a “a deep revision” to the assortment of goods on sale by withdrawing almost 800 product lines (400 of their own brands- Bosque Verde, Deliplus, Hacendado and Compy, along with 400 others).

The company stresses that the 800 products were withdrawn because “in all cases, they did not fulfil the criteria for sale rotation, they were duplicated and, far from contributing value to the client, did not respond to their real needs but instead increased the final price of the  shopping basket in their supermarkets”.

Damn, we missed them both


The students from the Escuela Infantil Municipal Bigastrín celebrating Carnival - a colourful parade, that surprised and moved all those that had the opportunity to see it.


Last Friday, the 20th of February, the Colegio San José de Calasanz also celebrated with their traditional Carnival parade. This year the chosen theme was the sea. In the parade were sirens, pirates, jellyfish,calaramares, mussels and tourists.

Photos are from the Bigastro web site. .

It will soon be with us


This poster by Antonio García showing a photograph of Santa Mujer Verónica reminds us that Easter will soon be upon us.

Whilst the English shops are stocking up on chocolate eggs, the locals are preparing for the big parades that will take place during Holy Week.

This year we will be going down to Torrevieja to watch the Good Friday parade of the pasos which tell the Easter story.

In Orihuela, where we went last year, most of the pasos are moved along on carts. At Torrevieja they are all carried on the shoulders which we feel lends a more religious atmosphere to the parade. 

We'll make sure we arrive in good time to get a seat because three hours standing in one spot is a long time.

That is sad

A 1.8 metre long dolphin was found dead on the Ortigues beach at Guardamar del Segura. The University of Alicante have taken the body away to determine the possible causes of death.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Old dogs and new tricks

After over 30 years of teaching, Pam and I are not too old to learn different ways to get your lesson across.

Eduardo, our Spanish teacher brings in articles that he finds in the local newspapers for us to read. This means that, not only are we expanding our Spanish, but we are learning something of the local culture as well.

Once we have read the articles to ourselves, Eduardo then goes around the class asking us to read a paragraph each. He checks our pronunciation and corrects us where necessary.

In Spanish, as you may well know, there is only one accented syllable in any word. As Eduardo explains, putting the stress in the right place is essential if you want to be understood. It is also important to get the various consonant - vowel combinations right - something which we need to practice a lot.

Having got us to read it, Eduardo writes some of the words that we have found in the passage on the board and asks us to describe what they mean in Spanish by finding suitable synonyms. That is the challenging part of the work because, although we may understand the words he has chosen, explaining their meaning in Spanish takes some thought.

After all that hard work he then gave us this story to read:

El Cuento de la Lechera

Habia una vez una niña que vendía leche. Un día, camino del mercado, iba pensando: "Con el dinero que saque hoy de la leche me compraré una gallina, la cuidaré, pondrá huevos y tendrá pollitos. Venderé los huevos y los pollitos y, con el dinero que gave, compraré un cerdo. Le daré mucha comida, engordará, lo venderé a buen precio y me compraré un hermoso traje nuevo. Iré a la ciudad, conoceré a un hombre rico, me casaré con él y seré la envidia de mi pueblo..." Pero, distraída con sus pensamientos, tropezó con una piedra, se le rompió el cántaro de leche y todos sus proyectos se convirtieron en nada.

The story is about a young girl who sells milk. One day on the way to the market she decides to sell the milk and buy a hen which if she takes care of will lay eggs which will hatch into chickens. She will then sell the eggs and the chickens and buy a pig. Once she has fattened the pig up she can sell it for a good price and buy a beautiful new suit. She will then go to the city and find a rich man who she can marry which will make her the envy of her town.

Unfortunately, distracted by her thoughts she tripped over a stone and broke the jug of milk and so all of her plans came to nothing.

There is a parallel here for many towns in Spain that have made great plans for the future which may come to nothing because of the credit crisis. Sometimes life deals you a reality check or as Pam succinctly put it, "s*** happens".

My Project 365

At the beginning of this month, I posted an item about my friend Pete who I used to work with and mentioned that he'd started a Project 365 on Flickr at the beginning of this year. The deal is that you take and post a photograph each day for a year. Pete's pictures for his project are unbelievably good; putting many of my efforts to shame.

In one of his emails, Pete suggested that I might want to start a Project 365 of my own. With all the money I have set aside in camera equipment and my love of Photoshop, this was a suggestion I could not refuse.

I am really enjoying taking photographs for this project (thank you Pete for encouraging me). It makes me think about what subjects I might choose and how I should go about getting a decent photograph of them.

You can browse my photographs at even make comments on them as long as you have a Yahoo account.

Be warned though, once you have done that you might be inspired to start a Project 365 yourselves. Please let me know if you do.

I cheat a little

As you will discover, most of my pictures are not 'art' - that is not the idea. They do however tell a story of my day to day life and the things that interest me.

Before any sharp eyed people point it out; I confess that some of my photographs were taken on a different day to the one they were posted on. My excuse is that I don't always go out each day and some days I might find several subjects worth taking. I'm sorry but I'm not prepared to waste a good snap just to stay within the rules!

NB Those of you who use Firefox as a browser will find that the CoolIris plugin works on Flickr albums.

Pete's comment:

I'd recommend any of your blog followers to check out the gallery.

It really augments what you post here, particularly for those of us not based in Spain.

And the photos are great!

Shucks Pete I'm blushing now.

A short introduction

Some of you who read this blog may not have met Pam and I so I am taking this opportunity on a quiet day to introduce ourselves to you.


Pam and me at Guardamar beach suitable dressed for a February day in Spain.

My profile tells you that we retired from teaching and moved to Spain.

Pam was an Infant Teacher on the Wirral teaching reception children. I was an Assistant Headteacher at a school in Liverpool teaching Information Technology. My responsibilities as an Assistant Head were for Finance, Premises and Administration. We lived in Greasby - a village on the Wirral about 20 minutes from Chester.

We have two children- Laura and Jemma. Laura is 29 and lives in Sale, Jemma is 31 and lives in Wolverhampton. They both like the fact that we live in Spain because it means they can enjoy economical holidays in the sun.

We thoroughly enjoy our lives here in Spain especially in Bigastro. It isn't the smartest town around but it does have a lot of character and the people are delightful.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The soap story episode 3

Pete says abut the soaps that NaturalCosmo sent me:- They look absolutely gorgeous! I bet they smell fabulous! Too right they do Pete. Not only that but they are far better for the skin than many commercial soaps.

As NaturalCosmo explain:-

The soaps are handmade from extra virgin olive oil (or Soap of Castilla) and do not contain synthetics, preservatives, detergents or chemicals of any kind. The colours that are used come from natural plants or clays.

The soaps contain essential aromatherapy oils which have been combined by a professional aromatherapist to provide wonderful aromas and effective therapeutic benefits.

The soaps are produced using the “cold” method which is a way of making soap without applying additional heat. This method preserves the delicate oils and means that the fatty acids of the oils used in the recipes stay intact.

NaturalCosmo go on to explain that the combination of the raw materials in their products makes them ideal for washing your body. They are also sufficiently smooth and delicate to be used for washing your face, as a solid shampoo and as shaving cream.

The company are keen to point out that none of their soaps have been tested on animals and that only the best quality virgin olive oils are used. Because of the natural materials used for colouring, colours can vary between batches.

PS I got three out of five of the soaps that Renata and Manuela sent correct.

From Left to Right :
-menta y chocolate
-orquídea y jazmín
-baya y yogur griego
-piña y coco
-naranjas de Sevilla.

Free seafood

Mark at the Restaurante El Flamenco in Alicante is making an offer you can't refuse.

Free seafood menu for two
But there's a catch: you have to win in one of the three competitions that the restaurant is running for Father's Day:

  • under 5's
  • from 5 to 10 years
  • from 10 to 16 years

Send him a painting or a drawing before the 17th of March and he will choose 3 winners who can then invite 2 people each to the seafood menu on the 20th of March - in the evening or at lunchtime.

Restaurante El Flamenco
c/. San Francisco 12 (next to the British Consulate)

Posting comments

One or two people have asked me what they need to do to post comments about my blog.

Underneath each post you will see

Posted by Keith & Pam Williamson at (the time) Labels: (the label I have attached)


Click on where it says 'comments' to get the box below.


This is where you type in your comment. You will notice though that I don't allow anonymous comments. That is because I feel if you have something to say you should identify yourself just like I do. 

So there are two things you must do to post a comment:-

  1. You need to have a Google or a Blogger account. These are FREE and only take a moment to set up.
  2. You need to type the word (in this case matin) in the Word Verification box.

Once you have done all that, your comment will be sent to me by email and will appear when anyone clicks the 'comment' label.

Please note that I don't moderate comments so you can say what you  feel as long as you are not rude!

The case continues

The ex- socialist mayor of Bigastro José Joaquín Moya, the councilman of Culture, José Espinosa Espinosa, and six ex- councillors from the previous socialist government made their declarations yesterday in the courts of Orihuela concerning the investigation of supposed irregularities in the auction of municipal land at the Pedrera to the construction company, Idearco.

The group of ex-councillors admitted, that in dealing with this sale of land, they had committed possible administrative irregularities in so much as sale and use of the municipal ground was approved in a Council session before the term for public consultation had expired.

At the council session on the 8th of August 2005, following a proposal by the Mayor, pedre2

The artist's impression of the original plan

35,000 square metres of land was sold to Idearco for 2.1 million Euros. An additional 45,000 square metres of land was later sold to the same company for 600,000 Euros to build a golf practice course. According to the denunciation made by the PP, when the Council granted the city-planning to Idearco they modified “de facto” the use of the land from rural to urban to allow a hotel complex to be built without having the the procedure mediated.

Moya has said in their defence that, in the case of the land auction, it was not necessary to make any change to the ground use “because it was predicted in the General Plan of Urban Arrangement” and added that they had to correct, at the request of the Catalan Autonomous Government, a problem in the procedure that had been followed.

Moya says the aim of auctioning the land to Idearco was to diversify the local economy, which is mainly based on construction by adding the leisure tourism model and the development of tertiary activities.

Nevertheless the project that was eventually presented by the company, far from being a complementary model, was to build an urbanization of 260 flats (60 of which would be in the form of an aparthotel), netting Idearco a profit of 18 million Euros , according to the PP party. The revised artist's impression, which appeared on Idearco's website was very different to the one above.

I can understand why Idearco would want to change their plans for the land they'd bought. I don't believe that Bigastro (as it stands) has the necessary attributes to be a tourist town. It is neither on the coast nor has it a patrimony that might be of interest to tourists. Added to which the route to the hotel would have been "rustic" to say the least.

In my opinion, an aparthotel in Bigastro would have struggled to survive.

Definitely not carbolic!

The kind people at NaturalCosmo sent me an email thanking me for mentioning their site on my blog.

In the email they promised me some samples of their soaps to try out. True to their word, Manuel and Renata sent me five different soaps. Rather cunningly though they emitted to put the labels on the packages so I have to work out what they are.


The one on the left is the easiest - it is Menta y Chocolate, the one on the right is Naranjas de Sevilla , the one in the middle could be Vetiver y Violetas, second from the right I think is Almendra y Leche de Coco and I'm not sure about the second from the left - my guess is Árgan y Flores de Neroli.

What I can tell you for certain is that my face never looked so clean and smelt so pretty. The soaps are all so good it would be hard to pick out a favourite.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fiesta programme

Local journalist, Andy Ormiston, has produced a website which details all the fiestas in Torrevieja.

Andy has also written a book about the history of the town entitled "Torrevieja Cameos".

As the title suggests this is a book which you can dip in and out of. It is illustrated with reproductions of old photographs and maps as well as modern day photographs and should be of great interest to those who want to know something of the history of this area of Spain.

Orange Market scandal

The entertainments company Orange Market, had its bid to stage the opening ceremony of the Volvo Ocean Race in Alicante, accepted and processed in just 11 days, even though it was priced higher than that stipulated by regional government.

On September 1, 2008, three companies, Orange Market, Inmotion and Concepto Alternativo, were invited to tender for the contract, which was set at 500,000 euros.

On September 9, Orange Market presented its bid, which offered to stage the opening ceremony for 516,000 euros and just three days later the bid was accepted and the contracts were signed by a representative of Orange Market and Arantxa Vallés the boss of the company that look after mage and promotion for the Valencia government.

Just six days after signing the contract the Volvo Ocean Race opening ceremony was held.

Questions are now being asked as to how Orange Market was able to plan and execute the event in just six days starting from scratch.

Monday, February 23, 2009

An Oscar for Spain

Penélope Cruz won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona at last night's ceremony in the Kodak Theatre. You will remember that she was nominated for an Oscar in 2007 for her role in Volver.

image image

Penélope Cruz in a vintage dress by Pierre Balmain

Accepting the award Penélope Cruz said, "Se lo dedico a todos los que desde España estén compartiendo este momento conmigo y lo sientan como propio y a todos los actores de mi país. Muchísimas gracias". Beautiful!

Concierto del Socio

Last night's concert at the Auditorium was played to a capacity audience. IMG_0447f

The guest director, D. Roberto Rabasco López, although not perhaps as animated in style as D. Manuel Gutierrez López, held the band together very well and lead them through a varied program which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Homenaje (Pasadoble) - José de la Vega

La del manojo de rosas (Selección de la zarzuela) - Pablo Sorozabal

Un día en Viena (Obertura) - Franz Von Suppé

Alvamar Op 45 - James Barnes

Titanic (Banda sonora original) - James Horner

Santander (Pasadoble montañé s - Ernesto Rosillo


Muchas gracias a todos los músicos.

The versatile orange peel

During the earliest days of orange cultivation, orange peels were more prized than the bitter fruit they protected. The essential oils extracted from orange peels were often used in medicines for indigestion and other maladies. Cooks during the Middle Ages were more likely to use dried orange peels as seasonings than to serve the fruit or the juice. It wasn't until sweet oranges were introduced in Spain and Italy that the rest of the orange received any recognition. Even today, there are perhaps more uses for orange peels and the oils they contain than there are for the rest of the fruit.

One use for orange peels is as a dried seasoning. Using a zester removes only the thin upper layer of orange peels, not the lighter coloured pith. The orange zest is usually left to dry overnight before being stored in airtight herb bottles. The orange zest can then used to enhance other flavours in desserts, gravies, sauces, and even some meat dishes. Dried orange peels can also be sprinkled as a garnish.

Another use for orange peels is as a candied dessert or accent. Orange peels can be boiled in sugar water until they become nearly translucent. Once allowed to dry, or placed in a food dehydrator, the candied orange peels can be eaten as a snack or combined with other dried fruits as an unusual salad. Different recipes for candied orange peels are available, but generally they involve the entire peel and pith, with several boiling sessions and a drying stage.

Outside of the kitchen, there are a surprising number of uses for orange peels. One unusual use for dried orange peels is as kindling for fires. The orange oils found in the peels are flammable, but they burn more slowly and steadily than common kindling material such as newspaper. Orange peel has the advantage of creating a pleasant odour as it burns.

Another use for orange peels is air freshening. Combine dried orange peels, cinnamon sticks, lemon peels, and flower petals in a simmering pot of water. As the steam leaves the potpourri, the air should become much more fragrant. Orange oil, derived from orange peels, is often used in commercial air fresheners and furniture polishes.

The essential oils found in orange peels are also used as insect repellents. To discourage ants from entering your home, experts suggest using a blended puree of orange peels and water directly on anthills and favoured pathways. Rubbing orange peels directly on the skin is also said to be an effective mosquito repellent. Insects in general find the odour of orange oil offensive, which may be a natural means of protecting the fruit from would-be predators.

Small insects aren't the only living things affected by the smell of orange peels. Some experts suggest that a mixture of dried orange peels and coffee grounds will discourage neighbourhood cats from using a homeowner's yard as a litter box. Animals such as cats and dogs are territorial, using scent cues to orient themselves. The overpowering smell of orange oil and coffee overrides their usual litter box signals.

So there you go. The people down the road could be using the peel for cooking, as a dessert, for kindling, air freshening, as an insect repellent or to ward off cats.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

For those who have mains gas

The eagle eyed ones will have spotted the notices that have been put on some of the lamp posts advising us that there will be a temporary cut in our gas supply on Monday 23rd February. The maintenance work is scheduled for 9am.

Before the work commences, we have been asked to turn off the gas supply tap which is located outside our houses and leave it turned off until we are advised that the work has been completed.

Last time, when the gas supply was returned, I had to turn the tap on and off a couple of times to clear an airlock in the pipe which was preventing the boiler from lighting. It may be the same again this time - I'll have to wait and see.

Urgent action is required

Orihuela is a city which is enormously rich in architectural patrimony. It is one of the great treasures of the Valencian Community. However, this wealth is now deteriorating rapidly.

The land in Orihuela is considered bad for building anyway because is is part rock and part mud - the worst possible combination. Diverting the river in the last decade has caused the land to dry out and subside which is now causing the buildings to crack.

For example, the refectory of Santo Domingo has a worrisome crack in the area based on the slope of the mountain which has enlarged almost a centimetre in just two years.


Colegio Diocesano de Santo Domingo


Iglesia de San Agustín

Urgent action is required to first stop the process of deterioration and then to repair the cracks before they lead to further problems.

An explanation from Maria

I asked on my blog why the local people dried orange skins.

Maria, the teacher of Spanish, has kindly sent me this explanation.

Perdoname que te escriba en español, pero no tengo mucho tiempo. Estaba leyendo tu email y me ha parecido que estabas incrédulo ante la idea de las cortezas (pieles) de naranja. Es cierto, desde que era pequeña recuerdo a mis abuelos secando las pieles. La verdad es que tengo un vago recuerdo, pero luego recuerdo que después cuando tenían suficientes para completar un saco, venía un señor en su bicicleta con una báscula, las pesaba y les daba un dinero por ellas. Yo preguntaba: "¿Para qué es eso?" Y ellos siempre me decían: "Para hacer pólvora". De hecho, antes cuando no existía ese comercio y la gente se alimentaba de sus propias cosechas, usaban las pieles de las naranjas para encender la chimenea, ya que prenden muy fácilmente. Así que si no nos han mentido, es cierto que aquí siempre se ha dicho que esas pieles para la elaboración de pólvora, por ejemplo, para los fuegos artificiales.

Maria explains that her grandparents used to dry orange skins. When they had sufficient, a man used to come on a bicycle to collect them. He weighed the dried skins and paid them accordingly.

When Maria asked what the skins were used for, her grandparents told her they were for 'powder'. In the days when people fended for themselves they used the 'powder' to light the fire because the dried peel ignites easily. So, Maria explains it is possible that the 'powder' could be used for fireworks as well.

Many thanks to Maria for taking the time to write to me. It seems that both the couple who told me they were for fireworks and I were right.

Cultural tour

In her email, Maria goes on to say:

Keith, aprovecho la ocasión para informaros de que, al igual que el año pasado, he organizado un viaje cultural con mis estudiantes de español. En esta ocasión vamos a ir a Cádiz, Jerez, etc. Por desgracia, no todos ellos pueden venir, así que de momento tenemos asientos libres para el autobús.

Te envío un documento adjunto con la información. El viaje será del 16 al 19 de abril, después de Semana Santa. Por favor, si vosotros u otros amigos o vecinos estáis interesados en venir, comunicadmelo lo antes posible. Gracias.

In other words a cultural tour has been organised for the 16th to the 19th April and there are spare seats on the coach. If anyone is interested they need to contact Maria as soon as possible.  Her email address is

This is the itinerary:-


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Spice up your Spanish

In English we often use phrases like 'You look really good today!' or 'You look worried - is something bothering you?' when we meet people.

In Spanish you could use 'te veo' literally: I see you. You can use this in the same way you would use the verb 'estar'.

Por ejemplo:Estás preocupado. ¿Qué pasa? - You're worried. What's happening? is OK but to be more streetwise you could say:- 'Te veo preocupado. ¿Qué pasa?' - You look worried. What's happening?

If someone looks happy, you could say:'Estás alegre' - You're happy but 'Te veo alegre' - You look happy is more appropriate.

If you want to compliment someone on how they look, this is OK:- 'Estás realmente linda esta noche' - You're really pretty this evening but it doesn't sound half as good as:- 'Te veo realmente linda esta noche' - You look really pretty this evening.

These tips and more come from Peter Christian's, 'Streetwise Spanish - How To Confidently Plug-In To The Language and Culture of the Hispanic World'. For more information go to

A bobbies job

Aurelio Murcia, spokesperson for the Popular Party (PP) in Bigastro, blamed yesterday the ex- mayor José Joaquín Moya for having created a parallel city council in premises on calle General Bañuls.

Murcia says that civil servants, even the current mayor Raúl Valerio Medina, enter and leave the premises constantly. He claims the situation is confusing because when a neighbour wants to see the mayor, they don't know which one to go to!

Although the Popular spokesman says that there is a good dialogue now between the parties, he is surprised that Valerio still defends a citizen who is no longer in a public position and whom Murcia claims, will probably end up in gaol for the crimes he is accused of.

It must be very difficult for Valerio to function as mayor when the shadow of the ex-mayor, who served the community for 25 years, is looming over him. I, for one, do not envy him the task.

I'm no prude but...

Like many I suppose, we were surprised when we first came to Spain to see young ladies on the roadside 'touting' for business. At first we thought they must be waiting for a lift but then quickly realised their true purpose. After a while we became used to their presence and even looked out for them.

Most of the ones who ply their trade towards Bigastro dress quite smartly and cause no offence. Even the one we christened semaphore girl' because she waived her arms and legs about as you passed seemed harmless if perhaps a little strange.

Some of the girls are attractive and like to show off their bodies. One particular lady' who stood on the roundabout between the CV940 and the CV945, took to standing in her underwear during the Summer months. I have to admit I was always intrigued to see what colour she would be wearing; one day white, then black, peach or lemon.

A few of my neighbours say they have even seen the ladies naked. I imagine that was because business was slack and they decided to try and drum up some trade by displaying the goods on offer. I don't think it is commonplace though.

On the CV95 towards Torrevieja, the girls are younger; they look as though they are in their early teens. Far from being attractive, some of these girls are downright 'tarty'. like the couple we passed the other day. One had a black bra, a pink skirt pulled up to reveal her panties and hold up stockings. The other was similarly dressed but had stockings and suspenders on. They looked like models from the seediest magazines that newsagents kept on their top shelves - you know - the ones that you looked at when you were tall enough to reach them.

I'm no prude and I don't mind the presence of these girls but I imagine it must be very embarrassing for people with children to pass young ladies so obviously dressed on the side of the road. Just how do you explain their presence? Surely their prospective customers know what they are about without them being quite so blatant.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Gala honours General Grau

Last Saturday, bands from the region paid homage to the bigastrense, General Francisco image Grau, in Redovan.

The occasion was the 4th Gala de la Música de la Federación de Bandas de la Vega Baja y Baix-Vinalopó.

Present at the gala were the Director and musicians of the Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro along with the councillors, Mª Carmen Alonso and Mateo Rodriguez.

The Musical Society took the opportunity at the gala to reward D. Alfredo Cuenca Escobedo for his collaboration and untiring support for the town's band.

Just a reminder that there will be a special concert by the band on Sunday at 6:30pm in the Auditorium Francisco Frau.

The situation closer to home

An example closer to hand illustrates the consequences of 'over urbanising' on the people who bought their houses in good faith.

People who bought houses at the Colinas de la Zenia Elite Fase II development on the Orihuela Costa are now without electricity and have had to abandon their homes. Apart from not having habitation certificates, it now turns out that the builder constructed 78 houses - 33 more than had been planned for. As a consequence the electricity company, Iberdrola, say that there is insufficient supply for all the houses.

The City Council was committed to mediate with the company that constructed the houses to get them to complete the work so that habitation certificates could be issued. However, after three years of builders supply, the homeowners are faced with the fact that the situation they find themselves in is now being described as irreversible.

No entiendo


You may have noticed this garage doorway on the way down into the town where they put orange peel out to dry. Two questions:-

  1. How do they manage to get through so many oranges?
  2. What are they drying the peel for?

One couple told us that they use dried orange peel to make fireworks. That seems absurd. I've never read anywhere about orange peel being an explosive. Maybe they use it to light the fire - no sé. Please send any sensible suggestions to

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The background to the problem

The whole issue of Spanish planning violations is now coming to a head. In the  Almanzora Valley, for example , over 6000 illegal homes were built without permission. In Andalucía alone, it is estimated that there could hundreds of thousands of illegal homes and buildings which now have to be found and either legalized or demolished.

The whole situation started off in the ‘80s and ‘90s when local builders would simply ask for permission from the local mayor and the neighbours; complete their  building and after 7 years if nobody complained it would be deemed “legal”. Of course nobody did complain because their own houses were also illegal.

Since nobody in the town halls bothered to enforce the laws regulating building;  the work continued. The Junta de Andalucía was  happy to have lots of employment around and so took no interest in controlling the situation. After all, the Junta didn’t get any taxes from the individual construction of houses (that went to the local town halls), but it did benefit from a greater population which brought larger handouts from central government and employment.

Earlier in this decade, we got to a situation where somebody in the EU started asking questions to Madrid about these huge numbers of  illegal houses all along the south coast. Madrid was embarrassed that they didn’t know what was going on. The Junta's reaction was to demolish  the home of an English couple in Vera, just to make a point. A complete overreaction, but the theory was that they had to show they were being firm.

Of course, this gross overreaction simply infuriated everybody. So we’re now in a situation where nobody is quite sure what to do. The Junta is very cautiously testing the waters by legalizing the illegal homes in the Almanzora Valley.

Many of the people, who bought homes in Andalucia, fell foul to crooked developers, builders, lawyers and even notary publics that conspired in unethical if not outright illegal practices to fool them into believing that their homes were legal. Clearly some people may have ignored due diligence, but many purchasers  were miss-sold or lied to by supposedly “independent” legal experts.

A damning report

MEPs have shown overwhelming support for a report which is to go before the European Parliament in March. The Spanish MEPs from both the PSOE and PP have tried to make amendments to the report but these have been rejected.

1. Calls upon the Government of Spain and of the Regions concerned to thoroughly review and revise all legislation affecting the rights of individual property owners in order to bring an end to the abuse of rights and obligations contained in the EC Treaty, in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, in the European Convention of Human Rights and in the relevant EU Directives as well as in other conventions to which the EU is a party;
2. Calls upon the competent regional authorities to declare a moratorium on all new urbanisation plans which do not respect the strict criteria of environmental sustainability and social responsibility and which do not guarantee the respect for the rightful ownership of legitimately acquired property; and to halt and cancel all existing developments where criteria contained in EU law, notably as regards the award of urbanisation contracts and respect for water and environmental provisions, have not been respected or applied;
3. Urges the competent national and regional authorities to establish functioning judicial and administrative mechanisms, involving the regional ombudsmen, which are given the authority to provide means of redress and of compensation for the victims of urbanisation abuse for citizens and residents who have suffered under the provisions of existing legislation such as the LRAU/LUV;
4. Requests the competent financial and commercial bodies concerned with the construction and urbanisation industry to actively participate with the political authorities in the search for solutions to the existing problems, resulting from massive and unsustainable urbanisation, which have affected hundreds of thousands of European citizens who have chosen to take advantage of the provisions of the EU Treaty and who have taken up their rights of establishment under Article 44, in an EU member state which is not their country of origin;
5. Calls upon the EU institutions to provide advice and support, if requested by the Spanish authorities, in order to provide them with the means to properly overcome the disastrous impact of massive urbanisation on citizens’ lives within a duly short yet reasonable time-frame,;
6. Calls upon the Commission, at the same time, to ensure the strict respect for the application Community law and of the objectives contained in the Directives covered by this report and to be more exigent with the Spanish authorities when it appears that many local authorities are not fulfilling their obligations to EU citizens;
7. Expresses its concern and dismay that the legal and judicial authorities in Spain have shown themselves to be largely ill-prepared and inadequate in dealing with the impact of massive urbanisation on peoples’ lives, as is witnessed by the thousands or representations received by the European Parliament and its responsible committee on this issue;
8. Believes, nevertheless, that lack of clarity, precision and certainty relating to individual property rights in existing legislation, and the lack of the proper and consistent application of environmental law is the root cause of many problems related to urbanisation and that this, related to a laxity in the judicial process, has not only compounded the problem but has also generated an endemic form of corruption where, once again, the European citizen is the primary victim, but where the Spanish state has also lost considerably;
9. Pays tribute to, and fully supports, the activities the regional ombudsman - ’sindic de greuges’ - and their staff, as well as to more assiduous investigating magistrates - ‘fiscal’ - who have done an enormous amount in the recent period to restore the integrity of some of the institutions affected by this issue;
10. Praises also, the activity of the petitioners, their associations and the local community associations, involving tens of thousands of Spanish and non-Spanish citizens, who have brought these issues to the attention of the European Parliament and who have been instrumental in safeguarding the fundamental rights of their neighbours and of all those affected by this enormous and complex problem;
11. Recalls that under the terms of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive and the Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment Directive there is an obligation to consult the public concerned at a stage when plans are being established and drawn up, not as so often has happened in cases brought to the Committee, after the plans have been de facto agreed by the local authority; recalls, in the same context, that any substantial modification to existing plans must also respect this procedure; contents of plans must also be current and not statistically inaccurate or out-of-date;
12. Recalls also that Article 91 of Regulation 1083/2006 empowers the European Commission, to interrupt the payment of structural funding, and Article 92 to suspend such funding to a member state or region concerned, and to establish corrections in relation to projects in receipt of funding which subsequently may be deemed not to have fully respected the application of relevant EU legislative acts;
13. Recalls also that the European Parliament, as the budgetary authority, may also decide to place funding set aside for Cohesion Policies in the reserve chapter if it considers this necessary in order to persuade a member state to end serious breaches of the rules and principles which it obliged to respect either under the Treaty or as a result of the application of EU law, until such times as the problem is resolved;
14. Reiterates its conclusions of past resolutions by calling into question the methods of designation of urbanising agents, and the frequently excessive powers often given to town planners and property developers by certain local authorities at the expense of communities and the citizens who have their homes in the area;
15.  Urges once again, local authorities to consult their citizens and involve them in urban development projects in order to encourage more acceptable and sustainable urban development where this is necessary, in the interest of local communities and not in the sole interest of property developers, estate agents and other vested interests;
16.  Strongly condemns the illicit practice of certain property developers undermine by subterfuge the legitimate ownership of property by European citizens by interfering with land registration and cadastre notifications, and calls upon local authorities to establish proper legal safeguards against this practice;
17. Reaffirms that, where compensation is required for loss of property, it should be awarded at a suitable rate and in conformity with the case law of the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights;
18.  Reiterates its call on the Commission to initiate an information campaign directed at European citizens buying real estate in a Member State other than their own;
19. Calls upon the President to forward this resolution to the Commission and Council, to the Government and Parliament of the Kingdom of Spain and the Autonomous Regional Assemblies, to the National and Regional Ombudsmen of Spain and to the petitioners.

Operation Bigastro 2

The lawyer for the defence, José Sánchez-Alarcos says that although the records show that municipal cheques amounting to 378,717.6 euros were made out to his client, José Joaquín Moya (ex mayor of the town) which were then paid into various accounts, these were in all in the name of the municipality.

The lawyer went on to explain that the accounts of the ex-mayor, which had been frozen will be unblocked within the next few days. The Municipal accounts which were also frozen were unblocked when the political situation in the town was regularised.

There will be some further explaining to be done; José Joaquin Moya will have to give an account of his patrimony and the City council will need to be audited to demonstrate that the money was not entered into the accounts of the ex- mayor. The imputed ones will also have to explain why an industrialist who worked for the Town Hall bought a Volkswagen Toureg which was then registered to the ex mayor. Finally they will need to answer the presumed crime against the arrangement of the territory for which Moya is also imputed. According to the ex-mayor's defence, the latter is an administrative infraction rather than a penal offence.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Too cheap to knick

We cash strapped Brits are always looking for a good bargain.


One of the stalls at San Miguel market was selling ladies' panties at 1€ a pair this morning. The downside is that you'd have to spend a few minutes scrabbling round to find the size and colour you wanted.


Another stall was selling kohl rabbi for a euro each. If I knew what to do with these strange looking vegetables, I'd have bought one.

More musical honours

Homage was paid to the bigastrense, Joaquin Grau,   Lieutenant Colonel and Director of the School of Military Music last weekend, in the  Almerian locality of Huércal - Overa. 

The tribute, which was organised imageby the Brotherhood  of Ntra. Señora de las Angustias and San Juan (Paso Blanco), was attended by the Director of the Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro, Emilio Sa'ez, the Councilman of Culture, José Espinosa and the Mayor of Bigastro, Raúl Valerio Medina.

Joaquín Grau Murcia is a professor of musical theory, professor superior of brass wind instruments, composition and instrumentation and conducting at the Real Conservatorio Superior de Música de Madrid and Profesor Superior de Pedagogía Musical of the Conservatorio Superior de Música de Murcia.

He has been a member of  the Cuerpo de Directores Músicos del Ministerio de Defensa since 1989. He has also director of the La Música del Gobierno Militar de La Coruña and of the Academia General Militar de Zaragoza.

Operation Bigastro

The summary of “Operation Bigastro” amounts to three thousand pages - six volumes, in which the Guardia Civil describes the supposed crimes that the ex- mayor of Bigastro, José Joaquín Moya has been imputed for by the courts.

From what I understand, 1,600 sq metres of land for industrial units was exchanged for premises on Calle Purisima and 132,000 euros in cash. In fact, it seems that as part of the deal, the mayor banked a cheque for 60,000 euros and a Volkswagen Toureg valued at 65,000 euros was registered in his name which was then sold several months later.

There is also an issue about irregularities surrounding the sale of land at La Pedrera. 35,000 sq metres of land was awarded to a constructor along with 45,000 sq metres for golf practice courses.

At the same session, the non-urbanizable land was reclassified from rustic to urban to allow a hotel complex to be built without allowing the issue to go to arbitration. Along with the ex- mayor, the present councilman of Culture, José Espinosa Espinosa and the ex concillors Mari Carmen Grau Espinosa, Maria Jesús Torres García, Juana Ortiz Ferrer, Maria Francisca Nortes Hernández and Julián Sánchez Martínez have been imputed for this action.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sunday night at the Auditorium

The program for cultural events from now until June will be published soon.

In the meantime:-



at 6:30pm


The Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro offers to all their friends and lovers of music an extraordinary concert in gratitude for their unconditional support.

They promise a varied program for this concert which should mean there is something for all tastes.

The gossip mill

There are many rumours that do the rounds here at Villas Andrea. I suppose it is because we are a close knit small community of Brits who have time on our hands and fertile imaginations.

Although a few of the rumours turn out to be completely true, most contain just a grain of truth that has been elaborated upon. As the more sensational stories get passed on from person to person they are embellished until eventually they are fit for the front page of the Sun.

Pam and I make a point of not believing anything unless we have witnessed it first hand. There seems little point in raising your anxiety levels worrying about something that may be just a gross distortion of the facts or worse still a figment of someone's imagination. In any case, we are not that interested in hearing of other people's dirty washing which is of course what many of the tales are about.

One rumour that I will pass on though is that the rate of exchange between the pound and the euro will improve to 1.3 within the next few months.  I have no idea where this notion came from or what information it was based on. Certainly I haven't read anything in the online newspapers to indicate that it might be true. I am only passing it on in the hope that by doing so the rumour might become fact.

Until that magic number appears on my sidebar gadget though, it will remain a dream - at the moment it is 1.12.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Getting careless

First we have satellites crashing in space and now this :-

A £25million Tornado was hurtling across flat countryside on a simulated mission when a £2million two-seat RAF Tucano trainer crossed its path just 30 feet in front of its nose.

The pilot of the Tornado exclaimed, “Jesus! “F*** me sideways!” as the turboprop Tucano appeared from the left on a collision course at a combined closing speed of 850mph.

Fortunately the pilot of the Tornado was able to bank to the right and swing his jet round averting a collision which would have engulfed both planes in a massive fireball with four deaths.

and then:-

The Royal Navy’s HMS Vanguard and the French Navy’s Le Triomphant, both nuclear powered and carrying nuclear missiles, collided deep under the Atlantic.

A senior Navy source said, “the potential consequences are unthinkable".

As inquiries began, naval sources said it was a millions-to-one unlucky chance both subs were in the same patch of sea. Warships have sonar gear which locates submarines by sound waves. But modern anti-sonar technology is so good it is possible neither boat “saw” the other.

The naval source said: “Crashing a nuclear submarine is as serious as it gets.”

The Vanguard was last night towed into Faslane in Scotland, with dents and scrapes visible on her hull whilst Le Triomphant limped to Brest with extensive damage to her sonar dome

The battle for control


The fight to control the 'picudo rojo' which threatens palm trees along the Mediterranean coast is complicated.

The beetle, which is 2 to 5cms long, eats into the crowns of the palm making tunnels into the trunk up to a metre in length. The first signs of an attack are a yellowing of the leaves. By this stage the palm is dying and cannot be saved.

Some councils have removed the affected trees to try and stop the insects from spreading. This drastic strategy has not worked.

Others have used existing insecticides in an effort to control the spread but many existing products don't work either.

There are new insecticides which may control the problem but they need to be tried and tested before they can be used in public places. That can take several months - a delay that can cost dearly in terms of the numbers of trees affected.

The process of eradication of the problem could take years though because of the number of trees and the problem of re-infestation.

To do nothing is not an option because the spread of the 'picudo rojo' threatens to wipe out the countries heritage. Imagine Elche without its palm trees - unthinkable.

Carrozas, samba, música y mucho humor


The weather wasn't great and we were tired after a late night so we gave the Carnival parade in Torrevieja a miss yesterday afternoon. That was a pity because by all accounts it was a brilliant spectacle.

There is another chance next Saturday to see the night time parade which starts at 10pm on the Calle Patricio Pérez.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Well done

The answer to whose hand was it that was holding the roses was Barbara Mann. Lilian Leach got it right - well done.

Barbara was insistent that she didn't want her picture on my blog. Well Barbara you now have a promising career as a hand model. Regular manicures and a plentiful supply of hand cream should keep you in business for many years to come.

PS Your modelling fee is in the post - 100 pesetas was what we agreed!

One for the ladies

I found this Spanish web site which offers 100% natural cosmetics.

Amongst other things, they offer a range of soaps with exotic aromas. These are just some.


Just think you could amaze your guests by putting out a different soap each day and asking them to guess the ingredients. Hmm that would be berries and Greek yogurt.

Romance was not dead

Well at least not up at La Pedrera last night where the three piece band PDQ had residents and friends on their feet dancing for most of the night.

The Chairman of the Residents' Committee, Jim Ryder, thanked José, the proprietor, for providing the entertainment free of charge, Darren Yarrow for kindly printing the tickets and all of us for attending. We would like to thank him and the rest of the Committee for helping to organise the event.

Whilst he was on his feet, Jim announced that the Albergue will now be closed for two weeks whilst the refurbishments to the room are completed. Following its re-opening, the Residents' Association AGM will be held at the Albergue on Wednesday, March 18th at 7pm.

The Orange Market affair

I've been trying to follow this story in the local Spanish press but it is quite complicated. The Costa Blanca News makes a bit more sense of it.

A major corruption investigation has been  launched by judge Baltasar Garzón into links between the Partido Popular in Valencia and two promotional companies, Special Events and Orange Market. La Nucía mayor Bernabé Cano may also be caught up in the controversy.

Sr Garzón ordered raids on the offices of the two companies run by Álvaro Pérez and Francisco Correa, both of whom are alleged to have used their strong connections with high-ranking members of the PP in Valencia and Madrid to gain lucrative contracts to stage a number of special events.

On Monday evening Álvaro Pérez was arrested in Valencia and taken to Madrid where Judge Garzón took a statement from him then ordered his detention. It is claimed that Orange Market pocketed at least five million euros in fees for organising events for the regional government.

Orange Market began operating in Valencia at the same time Francisco Camps took over as regional president and that it also made 450,000 euros for staging the opening ceremony of the Volvo Ocean Race in Alicante and an undisclosed sum for organising the PP regional congress last November.

Other reports claim the regional tourism council awarded the contract to design and mount the Costa Blanca stand at the recent Fitur tourism fair held in Madrid to Orange Market, despite its fee for the contract being higher than any other.

Other allegations claim that in 2004, the other company involved in the case, Special Events, was paid 13,500 euros to prepare a protest meeting for a foundation called Agua y Progreso, a group lobbying for the building of a canal to bring water from the river Ebro.

PP chiefs in Alicante also paid Orange Market 12,000 euros to arrange the opening ceremony of former mayor Luis Díaz Alperi’s election campaign in 2007.

El Mercardo


One of the things that Pam and I did miss was the jousting which took place at 1:30 and 9pm.

Tonight at 9pm though you can expect a firework display.

For those who have missed the market, you can get a taste by going to my photograph gallery at

And now for something different. This afternoon you can see the magnificent Carnival Parade at Torrevieja just don't expect it to start on time.

Who got the roses?


Whose hand is holding the wooden roses? Two clues.

  1. She lives at Villas Andrea.
  2. She is one of the nicest people you could wish to meet.

I'll give you the answer tomorrow.

Sheila Pickles thinks it my wife's hand because of clue 2. Nope sorry Sheila - come on, would I ever say that about Pam!

Clue 3: she lives on Calle Alemania

Saturday, February 14, 2009


I do beg your pardon. It seems that the times that I gave for the Medieval Market yesterday were wrong. It is in fact open from 10am to 2:30pm and then from 5:30pm until 11:30pm.


These pictures are from the local papers. You can view my photos here or by clicking on the Mercado Medieval Orihuela link on the left.

It's why the lights flicker

One of the features of the software that came with my new UPS* is the ability to produce graphs of the input voltage. As you can see the voltage does vary quite a bit; not enough for the UPS to transfer the computer onto battery backup but certainly enough to flicker the lights.


*Uninterruptible Power Supply - basically a battery backup to keep my computer going during our frequent power cuts.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Something for the weekend

Don't forget this weekend Orihuela is hosting a Medieval Market.

The market will be officially opened at 11:30 this morning. The times for the market which centres around the Plaza Marques de Rafal, the Plaza del Carmen, and in the Plaza de Santa Lucía, are 10am until 12:30 and then from 4:30pm until 1:30 in the morning.

In the Plaza del Carmen  you will find all sorts of local food including Cocido con Pelotas, los Paparajotes, varieties of  dishes with alcachofas, Arroz y Costra, turrones caseros and  embutidos. In the Plaza de Santa Lucía  you'll find the stocks ready for the jousting tournaments.

Map image

Your house

Yesterday, when we finished walking round the market, we called at the VaiVen for a coffee. We couldn't help but notice the large poster that has been fastened to the wall of the church.


The message says The Parish of Our Lady of Bethlehem - your house' and announces the program for 2008-2009 . It was such a warm message on a beautiful sunny day - I had to take a photograph and post it for you to see.

Those Bigastrense who are currently living away from the town and read this blog will be pleased to see that the town still holds its values.

Our class

These are the people in our Spanish class yesterday.

On the front row, starting from the left, we have three Ukrainian ladies, and the newest member who is from Russia and then two Moroccans on the right. Behind, on the second row, we have the British contingent with a further two on the back row. Unfortunately Gillian and Wendy arrived after the photo had been taken.


We are all deep in study because we had just been given 'El Viaje Definitivo', a poem by Juan Ramón Jiminéz, to read. The poem contains a lot of verbs in the future tense which we had to identify and then change from the imperfect future to the form ir + a + infinitive.

We were then asked to write the things that Jiminéz was going to 'echar de menos' when he was dead. If you translate that phrase word for word it means to 'throw of less' what it really means though is 'to miss'.

What we surely won't miss are the complications of learning this language!