Friday, July 31, 2009

Operation Cage

Roads, ports and the airport were closed temporarily in response to the bomb attack yesterday in Palma Nova, Mallorca.

Two police officers, aged 28 and 27, were killed by the bomb, which had been attached to the bottom of their car. The device went off near a police station in the Palma Nova beach resort, southwest of the island’s capital, Palma. Several other people were injured. Police later found and defused a second bomb.

The attack came a day after a car bomb at a police barracks in the northern Spanish city of Burgos injured more than 60 people.Both attacks were blamed on Eta.

The group was founded in 1959 and some experts in Spain feared that it would use its 50th anniversary to demonstrate its continuing ability to attack. The Spanish Government has repeatedly said that Eta is at its weakest in its history, but has warned that the organisation is still capable of killing. The terrorist group has been responsible for the deaths of more than 850 people.

A further proposal for the AP-37

The mayor of Bigastro, Raul Valerio Medina, is moderately optimistic that the technicians who are responsible for the Carreteras de Murcia will welcome the route for the AP-37 between Orihuela, Bigastro and Jacarilla that he and the mayoress of Orihuela are proposing. Their plan is for the road to pass from Beniel through the marshland of La Pedrera parallel to the water channel that feeds the reservoir. The road would then connect with the future CV-91 via the land corridor between Bigastro and Jacarilla.

What Valerio seems to be suggesting is a route south of Bigastro rather than north through Molins. We’d have to see this on paper to understand the implications.



Another quake

image Movement of the tectonic plates yesterday resulted in a an earth tremor of 2.3 on the Richter scale just off the coast of the area.

The epicentre was located in the sea between Guardamar and Torrevieja so people on the coast would have felt the tremor which lasted for about three or four seconds.

This was a grim reminder of the big wave of small quakes that hit the region at about the same time last year.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Does anyone know?

We’ve had lots of short power cuts in the last week (I count four in the last 24 hours including two this morning). Does anyone know why? And before you ask – yes we have paid the bill.

Not a great investment

We didn’t buy our house here in Spain as an investment which is just as well because it is obviously worth a lot less now than when we bought it in 2004. Although it would be nice to think that our house had increased in value, the drop would only pose a problem if we intended to sell it.

BBVA bank's research and analysis department predict that house prices in Spain will fall by 10 per cent this year and 12 per cent next year, and by 2012 will have plummeted an accumulated 30 per cent from the time the real estate boom ended in 2008. 

The report, does include one positive note: the dropping prices, combined with falling interest rates - which it predicts will hit 0.5 per cent by the end of this year - mean that the housing market will become more accessible to potential buyers than it has been in 20 years. Good for buyers but not so hot for sellers. 

The BBVA report puts the number of unsold homes in Spain at 1.2 million, more than double the figure offered by the Spanish Association of Developers (APCE).  The overstock will not begin to be absorbed until well into 2010, and will then gradually diminish, not returning to 2005 levels until the end of 2012, it says.

That means that anyone who bought their property here as an investment will have to wait until after 2012 to see any sort of return on their money. There is no doubt that the market will change but may not return to a boom years for a long time if ever at all. In my opinion that is not a bad thing; buying off plan and snatching at whatever you could get was not good for buyers. The only beneficiaries were the sellers and the constructors who saw an opportunity to charge spiralling prices for property.

We were lucky, we bought the house that we wanted in a location that suited us. Nearly five years on, we are still happy with our purchase and have yet to find a location that would suit us better. Others may have been less fortunate and ended up with a pig in a poke.

The war of words continues

It seems that the PP party are not happy about the way the contracts for the Fondo Estatal de Inversión Local (FEIL) work in Bigastro have been awarded. Remember this was government money intended for new projects with the intention of stimulating the economy.

Aurelio Murcia, the spokesperson for the PP claims that the people employed to do the work on Avenida Apatel, the road into town from the roundabout, are not from the unemployed list. Murcia says the company  involved are from Torrevieja and provided the most expensive bid for the work. He even hints that they may be related to or are friends of local councillors.

In case you wondered what exactly they are doing, they are widening the pavements and laying down a cycle path.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Maybe this is what I need


Selfridges in England are launching the first range of control pants for men. Made by Equmen, they are set to give to men what control pants have done for women. As you can see, not only do Equmen make pants, they also make vests that do the same thing for the torso.

Equmen say they use arevolutionary 'Helix-Mapping compression technology', to improve lightweight posture and provide support 'down under', in addition to lifting and smoothing "in all the right places”. It must be right; just look at the effects in the pictures above.

Apparently, the magic material that achieves all this contains 73% Polyester 13% Nylon and 14% Spandex.

I reckon I’d need a lot more Spandex to get my body to look anything like that – more like 70%. Actually, an inner tube from a truck tyre might just do the trick.

Pete says, " Nice choice of model - he needs control pants like I need to gain weight!" You are right Pete, he does seem to have a head start over some of us. I reckon We'd need to see a photo of him without the pants to compare.

However, since this is a family blog so we won't go there!

Gone but not lost

If you went looking for the market in Orihuela yesterday in its usual place then you would have been disappointed. It has now moved to the Recinto Ferial (the fairgound) on the Huerta.

Its old location wasn’t ideal. As the market grew it became too crowded in the narrow streets. There is a lot more space at the fairground. Not only that but there is also space to park your car and public toilets nearby.

Getting to the new location isn’t a problem because a bus runs every fifteen minutes from the Glorieta Gabriel Miró and finding your way by car looks easy.


Any change is bound to bring a certain amount of disruption. It will take shoppers a little while to find their favourite stalls and some of the stallholders will complain about having a less favourable location than others. Given time, it will all settle down and people will accept the change as if it had always been that way.

Deliberate fire destroys valuable pine trees

It seems that a number of the fires that have ravaged Spain and other Mediterranean countries have been started deliberately. Sadly, that is not an uncommon occurrence. When Pamela’s father was a Fire Officer, he found one of his retained staff was lighting fires in the countryside near West Kirby. You could conclude that the retained officer was doing this to earn extra money but it was more than that; he was an arsonist and loved watching fires burn.

Yesterday there was a fire at Molino Blanco which burnt over 1,000 square metres of pine trees and scrubland. Firemen from Torrevieja arrived first and worked to stop the fire spreading to the pine trees and sand dunes at La Mata. They were later assisted by firemen from Almoradí, Pilar de la Horadada  and the forest brigade of the  Council of Environment who are located at Guardamar del Segura  during the summer months.

Between them, the fire-fighters managed to get the blaze under control within three quarters of an hour and thus save the problem from getting worse. As it was, thirty protected trees of a variety which grow in sand dunes were lost.

An investigation is underway to find the cause of the fire. Initial findings suggest that it was started deliberately.

I don’t think I will live long enough to understand the workings of some peoples’ minds.

Still up to speed



There was an article in yesterday’s Daily Mail that said that most people in Britain were not getting the Internet Speed they were paying for.

Periodically I test the speed I am getting on my ADSL connection. Bear in mind that I am paying extra for 10MB as opposed to the 3MB we were originally allocated by Telefónica. In light of the newspaper article, I thought I would check again.

Due to  various reason (the phone line, the protocols and the PC itself) it isn’t possible to get the full speed claimed. As you can see Telefónica reckon you should get between 80 and 95 percent which for me would be between 8 and 9.5MB so clearly 8.6Mb is well within tolerance.





Tuesday, July 28, 2009

In good company


Those of you who visit the Bigastro web site and follow the links may well have spotted chief scout John accompanied by Gordon and Ann, the third Age King and Queen for 2009 and John’s wife Carol at the Fiesta for Santa Ana last Saturday night.

It looks like they were sharing a joke with the Spanish neighbours of the district.

John tells me that it was an excellent night and highly recommends putting this fiesta onto our social calendar.

PS John is the one sat nearest to us in the distinctive shirt, next to him is Gordon, then Ann and you can just see Carol’s blonde hair.

Don’t miss the bus

The Local Police advise us that as from Wednesday, the 29th of July buses going to Orihuela will be stopping on the by-pass at Muebles Mem and the Centro de Salud.This is because of work on the Avda. Apatel which will last for approximately two months.


Influenza A vaccines in Spain

The Minister of Sanidad y Política Socia, Jiménez Trinidad, has made proposals to the Government to counter the swine flu pandemic following the the sixth death of a victim of influenza A in Spain - a 53 year old man who had been admitted to the Hospital La Ribera de Alzira (Valencia).

The minister says that Spain has around 37 million doses of vaccine, enough for two doses per person, ready for Autumn. The Ministry of Health as still awaiting the results of clinical tests but anticipate that each person will be given an initial dose followed by a second one a few days later.

Health workers will be vaccinated first followed by groups at high risk; pregnant women, children, chronic patients and the obese. The Ministry are awaiting advice from the World Health Organisation and the European Union about how far to go with vaccination of others.

Since we have had text messages for the last two years offering us flu injections, it seems likely that we will be offered vaccine against Influenza A this year.

Let’s start with the weather


A little cooler than last week which I am sure will please many. I notice that AEMET don’t give humidly levels in their predictions which is a pity because when it is high that makes it uncomfortable. Judging by the amount of water coming from the air conditioning units the level is a little lower than it was but is still on the high side.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The real stars

The Schleck brothers were the real stars of the Tour for us. Whilst politics were being played out in the Astana camp about who should be the leader of the team and Cavendish was rubbing his sores after being denied the green jersey, these two just got on with racing.

Ahdy Schleck led his brother Frank to win on Stage 17 Bourg-Saint Maurice to Le Gran-Bornand and on Mont Ventoux he kept looking behind him to see where is brother was rather than digging in to challenge Contador. It was more important for Andy to ensure his brother kept his ranking than go for glory himself.

Working together in the way the Schlecks did will ultimately prove more successful than wrangling within a team as we saw with Armstrong and Contador. Throughout the three weeks, it wasn’t clear who Johan Bruyneel was supporting. At the press conference following the climb of Mont Ventoux, it was obvious it wasn’t Contador – Bruyneel was absent.

On the mark

What a grand finish to Le Tour. As expected, Alberto Contador was the emphatic winner of the yellow jersey having won two of the stages as an individual and the team time trial with Astana.

image The plan worked

On the final final corner of the last stage, Mark Cavendish was led out by his Columbia team-mates George Hincapie and Mark Renshaw to a blistering sprint which gave him the first British win on the Champs Elysees, his sixth stage win in this year’s tour and his tenth in total.

Bradley Wiggins held on to his fourth place equalling the great Robert Millar, the only other Brit to come so high up the grand classification.

So it was smiles all round. The fourth year in a row that a Spaniard has won the Tour and a great result for Britain.

Now we have the Vuelta to look forward to and then next year – who knows.

Having a fab time

Having watched the last stage of Le Tour, Pam and I wandered up to La Pedrera for the charity event.

People who had been there all afternoon said we had missed some really good acts – I’m sure we did. When we arrived, the Beatles tribute band were performing - knocking out some of our favourites from that 60s era.

P1010166f P1010173f

Shake it up baby - twist and shout!

As you can see, these Scouse girls were impressed by the performance – they were giving it loads on the dance floor!



I’m not sure this group were as taken by the music though.

They were busy playing cards!

The tribute really goes to Darren for putting this all together. Six hours of live entertainment with seven acts must have taken some organising. I'm glad it was such a success.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A bit of a damp squid

Yesterday’s stage up to the top of Mount Ventoux was meant to be a nail biting climax before the usual ceremonial parade into Paris. It turned out to be more about tactics than pure racing.

For us Bradley Wiggins was the real star as he fought off challenges for his fourth place overall. He was dropped by Contador, Armstrong and the Schleck brothers in the final kilometres but still managed to hold on to his position by three slender seconds.

Garate was the first Spaniard to win on the mountain and will remember the day for the rest of his life. If the race for first place in Paris had been closer, it would have been a different story.

Now all that remains is to see if Mark Cavendish can win the coveted last sprint on the Champs Elysees.

We’ve been there

Anyone who has been to Mojácar on the Almerian coast will recognise the Indalo man on our gate. Pam and I went there on a Thompson late deal. We knew we were flying to Almeria but had no idea which resort or hotel we would be at. As it happened we were booked into the Hotel Indalo at the end of Mojácar playa. It was an excellent hotel where we had a fabulous room with a great view. The only slight downside was that they were just starting to develop the promenade along the beach so there wasn’t anywhere nearby to walk to at night. It is very different now.

Now I read that Mojácar could be declared a disaster zone as fierce forest fires forced mass evacuations. Blazes destroyed houses in the countryside and more than 3,000 hectares of forest and caused the evacuation of 3,000 people.

As well as the beach resort of Mojácar, residents were evacuated from nearby towns including Turre - which suffered severe fires not long ago - and Alba.

Evacuees were taken to neighbouring towns Garrucha, Vera, Carboneras and Cuevas del Almanzora where temporary shelters were set up by the Red Cross and emergency services.

It seems that the Indalo man has lost some of his magic. I hope the damage isn't too severe.

Mountain to Mohamed


At first it is amusing but after a whole day of being pestered by people trying to sell you something on the beach, it can get tiresome. We experienced the problem first on the beaches in Southern France where they would be selling cold drinks out of cool boxes and waffles covered in chocolate all day long. On holiday at the Spanish beaches they were selling coconuts and peaches. We notice that at Guardamar they seem to specialise in pestering you to have a massage or a tattoo. At Studland beach near Swanage in Dorset, the ice cream van would come down the beach once during the afternoon. Far from being an annoyance, he was a welcome sight.

Obviously with a higher concentration of potential customers, there is a wider range of goods on sale at the beaches in Torrevieja.

This photo from Informacion shows a guy with a cart trying to make a living on the beaches at Torrevieja. I imagine there is no need to go to the shops, everything you want (or more to the point don’t want) is brought to you in a day long procession.

I'd rather lie by my pool and have Pamela offer me a cup of tea at about 6pm.

Cooler at a cost

The combination of intermittent clouds and a strong breeze made it feel a lot cooler yesterday.

However, the wind did cause some problems last night when it forced the suspension of the first concert in the habaneras cycle in Torrevieja. The concert by the choir “Voces oscuras” of Venezuela was due to start at 10pm at the Embarcadadero de Torrelamata. Hopefully tonight’s concert by the choir “Aurora” of Montevideo (Uruguay) which is scheduled for the same venue will go ahead without problems.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


It isn’t just the high temperatures we are contending with, the humidity is obviously off the scale as well.

Yesterday I emptied 12 litres of water that came from the air conditioning unit in the lounge. This morning the portable unit was overflowing after just two hours of use.

Preventing accidents at work

The Valencian Institute of Juventud (IVAJ) in collaboration with the Council of Youth of the City council of Bigastro have organised a Course about the Prevention of Labour Risks to take place between the 5th and the 21st of October.

I hope they show them how to work safely at heights, advise them about hard hats and teach them the rudiments of electrical safety.


Orange alert

Although it was a little cooler yesterday than it was on Wednesday and Thursday, the thermometer was still registering temperatures in the high thirties during the hottest part of the day.Today has started out cloudy so it may be a little cooler to start with.

The Ayuntamiento in Bigastro have kindly pointed us to this advice. ( click on the picture to see it full size).


The main messages are drink plenty but avoid alcohol or caffeine, heavily sugared drinks or anything which is too cold. Sports drinks are good because they replace the salts lost through sweat.

Eat light foods; plenty of fruit and vegetables rather than high protein meats.

Use sun cream of at least factor 15 if you are intending to stay out in the sun.

Avoid physical activity if you can (unless you are on today’s stage of the Tour de France that is!)

Plan your activities for the mornings or evenings when it is cooler and lastly watch out for older people and children under 5.

Acquitted but not forgiven

England footballer Steven Gerrard was cleared of a nightclub assault by a jury in his home city yesterday despite admitting he repeatedly punched a man in a drunken row over music. CCTV footage clearly showed that the only punches thrown during the incident came from Gerrard who admitted to being 70% drunk at the time.

The jury took just over an hour to acquit the Liverpool captain of affray on the grounds that he acted in self-defence, even though he accepted that businessman Marcus McGee had not threatened to attack him.

The judge told the £5million-a-year player that while he had been 'unwise' to pursue the 'trivial' dispute over what songs were played during a night out, he left the dock with his reputation intact.

He may have escaped a jail sentence but he won’t escape the ire of opposing fans. Hours after his acquittal, Steven Gerrard scored for a Liverpool XI in a friendly against the Wirral clubTranmere Rovers.

However, the goal did little to quell the booing Gerrard received whenever he touched the ball, however, a depressing precursor of what no doubt is to come from opposing fans this season.The term "unwise" by the judge may be ringing in Gerrard's ears for some time to come.

Friday, July 24, 2009

It should be a good Sunday

Looks like Darren has really managed to pull it off this time. From 2pm until 8pm he has organised a veritable galaxy of entertainment for us to enjoy up at La Pedrera.

With Alan Warden, Lucinda, Andy Jones, Kinni Lee, Ricky Patton, the Seventies Show, The Beatles tribute band and a magician appearing there is bound to be something for every one.

Best of all, entrance costs only 2€ and the proceeds go to MABS.

Just in case we get hungry (which we will) there will be an open air barbecue and of course a bar.

You can find a poster for the even by clicking on this link.

Could it be?

Yesterday’s stage in Le Tour proved that Alberto Contador will be (barring accidents) the worthy winner this year. Almost unbelievably, he beat Olympic time-trial champion Fabian Cancellara by 3 seconds. Time trialling was regarded as Contador’s weakness – not anymore!

The good news for Britain is that Bradley Wiggins now trails Lance Armstrong by just 11 seconds on the general classification. If he can just pull out those precious few seconds from the American on Mont Ventoux Bradley will be the first ever podium finisher for Britain (remember the Irish rider Stephen Roche won the Tour in 1987 and Sean Kelly won the green points jersey four times).

What does Wiggins face on Saturday?

Mount Ventoux is up there with Alpe d’Huez and the Tourmalet as the daddy of all Tour climbs and is particularly poignant to British cycling fans, being the site of Tom Simpson’s death in 1967.

The climb of Ventoux is very long and hot, but sometimes perversely cold and often windy. But, as Wiggins suggested, it is a one-off and doesn’t have the sudden savage changes of gradient that proved so difficult during Wednesday’s run to Le Grand-Bonard, the only mountain day this year when Wiggins lost ground to his immediate rivals. It is the kind of mountain that Wiggins has added to his repetoire, terrain in which he can flourish.

We have our fingers and toes crossed for Wiggins. A podium win by him would give us cause for a double celebration – Contador for Spain and Wiggins for Britain.

A great tip

Maz who follows this blog offers this advice about my insect bites, “Have you tried dabbing a spot of Lavender essential oil on the bite. I always carry a small bottle with me when in Spain & France and everyone else are always dabbing it on their bites to stop the itching. I'm lucky - they don't like my blood. Oh and the lavender will help you sleep as well.”

Thanks for that Maz. As it happens the bites have now gone down but I will bear it in mind for the next time!

Geez, what a scorcher

I’d have to agree with anyone who says that it was hot yesterday.


By the mid afternoon, the air conditioning unit in the lounge was showing an outside temperature of 43 degrees C in the shade.

I also noticed that the voltage was low at around 210 volts which I assume was because of all the air conditioning and fans that people in Bigastro were using to cool themselves down.

Darren was offering liver, onions and mash as a special up at the Pedrera last night. If it had been a cold winter’s day we would have been sorely tempted but not on a scorcher like yesterday. Yesterday was definitely a cold salad day. Sorry Darren.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The queen stage

Yesterday's gruelling stage in the Tour de France certainly lived up to its promise.

First off; Thor Hushovd all but sealed victory in his battle for the green jersey with Britain's Mark Cavendish by winning both the day's intermediate sprints. To do so meant going out alone on one the category 1 climbs of the day followed by a category 2 climb. Maybe he was trying to show that winning the points jersey was more about consistent performance than about being carried along by your team all day just to make a huge effort in the last few hundred metres of a race.

The real drama though was the battle between the brothers Schleck and Alberto Contador. Neither could shake the other off in the final climbs of the day. By attacking the Schlecks, Contador distanced himself from his teammates Kloder and Armstrong and left himself vulnerable. A risky manoeuvre but it It paid off.

Barry Wiggins continued to give all that he had got to keep up but in the presence of the best climbers in the world he dropped back into 6th place. It was Wiggins that Contador feared could beat him in the time trial today. He now believes that the gap between them is sufficient to prevent that from happening.

Armstrong still thinks that the race will ultimately be won on the 21.1km climb of Mont Ventoux. We shall see.

I thought it was a little hot yesterday

The Conselleria de Gobernación, via the Centro de Coordinación de Emergencias autonómico (CCE) said that they temperatures would reach image 39ºC.

They therefore extended the level of Pre-emergency to 3, the maximum wild fire risk in the regions of the interior of Castellón and the south of Alicante.

You can obtain more information at

NB red represents extreme temperatures.

PS The risk continues today.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Up mountain and down dale

Those of you who watched yesterday's stage in the Tour de France will have seen the gruelling climb up to the top of the Saint Bernard pass. You will have seen Mikel Astarloza of the Spa/Euskaltel team go on to win the stage, Alberto Contador retain the yellow jersey and Lance Armstrong being first dropped by the yellow jersey group and then fighting back on the climb to join them. Yesterday’s stage was far from dull.

There was a nasty fall on the descent of the Petit St Bernard which has forced the retirement of Jens Voigt of Saxobank. He was taken to hospital immediately after his crash having lost consciousness. I hope he is alright.


Today promises to be even more exciting on what has been described as the toughest day in this year’s Tour. Four category 1 climbs with a category 2 climb in the middle should see plenty of action from the mountain goats. Armstrong won’t attack his team leader’s position but, at the same time he won’t want to loose any time to him. We can also watch out for Bradley Wiggins who is on a mission. He is in third spot and intends to at least stay there. Then there is Andy Schleck - Contador said it was hard to keep up with him yestreday.

I hope the spectators show a little more restraint today. It is easy to understand their enthusiasm but leaping out, waving your arms in front of a rider whilst he is struggling uphill is a recipe for disaster. I don’t think the riders appreciate being patted on the back either.

Once bitten…..

Just as soon as you say, “we haven’t been bitten this year” it happens.

We do know better than to be out in the garden at night but the bites I got happened during the daytime. By the time I could feel the insects on me, it was too late, the damage was done. All I could do then was wait for the lump to appear and the itching to start. As per usual, that occurred during the early hours of the morning and persisted in a way that prevented me from getting back to sleep. Damn it I need as much beauty sleep as I can get!

Between the mosquitoes and the cicados, it is almost as if they are plotting to make the best months of the year miserable for us.

It just isn’t cricket

Actually to be correct they are not crickets but cicadas that are trying to keep us awake at night just outside the bedroom window.

image Many insect make sounds by rubbing their wings or legs together. The cicadas though use an entirely different method to produce their incredibly loud songs. They have a pair of special sound producing organs called "tymbals," located at the base of the abdomen. Inside each tymbal are stiff but flexible ribs supporting a stout membrane. Muscles attached to the ribs pull the tymbal inward, causing it to pop. The tymbal pops again when the tension is released. Rapid contractions and relaxations of the tymbal muscles create the loud, buzzing songs of the cicadas, which are amplified further by a hollow area in the abdomen.

When we first heard them, we thought it was an short somewhere in the builders cables that supplied our electricity.We now know better. It is almost unbelievable that one small insect can make so much noise.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fantastic job


In our lessons with Eduardo, we were asked what we thought were the priorities for Bigastro and one of the things we mentioned were the roundabouts at each end of the town which we thought were very scruffy.

What a great job they have done with them. All the palms have been cleaned taking out the dead leaves and the old bark has been removed. Now they have laid a membrane and gravel over it to complete the job.

The roundabout now give visitors a good first impression as the approach Bigastro. Once the new fountain is completed in the main town square, I’m sure that will look a lot better as well.

The age of silver

The world is about to cross a demographic landmark of huge social and economic importance, with the proportion of the global population 65 and over set to outnumber children under five for the first time.

A new report by the US census bureau highlights a huge shift towards not just an ageing but an old population, with formidable consequences for rich and poor nations alike. The transformation carries with it challenges for families and policymakers, ranging from how to care for older people living alone to how to pay for unprecedented numbers of pensioners – more than 1 billion of them by 2040.

Europe is the greyest continent, with 23 of the world's 25 oldest countries. Such dominance of the regional league table will continue. By 2040, more than one in four Europeans are expected to be at least 65, and one in seven at least 75.

With women living on average seven years longer than men, more older women are living alone. Around half of all women 65 and over in Germany, Denmark and Slovakia are on their own, with all the consequent issues of loneliness and access to care that ensue.

Perhaps TV companies should take note. Instead of programmes for the young, they will have to concentrate on programs for the older generation. More “Last of the Summer Wine” and less “Big Brother”.

UPS to the rescue – again!

I don’t know about the rest of the town or Spain in general but power cuts are fairly common here at Vilas Andrea. Some last barely a second, others go on for several minutes. Either way they are very disruptive.

Most items of electrical equipment will survive a power cut without a problem – they go off and then come back on when the power resumes. 

Sky boxes and computers definitely do not fall into that category. We don’t have a Sky box but I understand that they need to be reset following a power cut. That must be a pain in the butt. Computers will generally restart following a power cut but it all depends on what was happening when the power was lost. If you were working on something at the time, then it will be lost. There is also the possibility that programs or even the operating system will be corrupted by a power failure. 

It wasn’t a cheap solution to the problem but the UPS (uninterruptible power supply) I bought from APC has proved to be a godsend in such situations.

Take this morning; the power went off but my computer and monitor stayed on. I could have carried on working and let the UPS do its thing. When the battery became low, the software would have closed down the programs and switched the computer off automatically. Instead I chose to switch off myself since, although my router was still on,  the Internet connection was dead anyway.

Call it overkill but I’m glad I spent a couple of  hundred Euros or so on an UPS rather than face the problem of a dead computer following a power cut.

Santa Ana


We were talking about the programme for Santa Ana only yesterday. Santa Ana was reputedly the wife of San Joaquín, the town’s patron saint and hence the grandmother of Jesus.


10am Great sardine feast in the Park of Santa Ana

9pm Great parade through the streets by the Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro. Their passage will of course be accompanied by firework rockets

From the 10pm - CENA-BAILE (dinner dance I think) with the Quartet MILENIUM

From midnight, the traditional presentation of the 2009 Fiesta Queens and their entourages. Followed of course by fireworks.


11:30am Mass to honour Santa Ana in the Park

6:30pm Great Children’s Fair

9:30pm Traditional Great Evening of the White Mulberry with “potatoes and wine”.

1am Closing cermeony with fireworks to honour Santa Ana.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Not good for Pete


My friend Pete from Liverpool went to an air show at the weekend. The sun came out for just 20 minutes and he got burnt. He’s posted thisimage picture non Flickr just to prove it.

I think Pete would really suffer here at the moment as the sun continues to shine and the temperatures remain in the low to mid thirties.

Everyone tells me that it was really hot last Friday. Pam and I were down in Torrevieja and have to say we didn’t notice it being hotter than the rest of the week. Maybe we are getting acclimatised!

As you can see, after a cooler start,  it will get hotter towards the middle of this week.

Pressure groups win case

It looks like the scheme to build the CV-95 motorway from Torrevieja to Orihuela through San Miguel de Salinas is going to fail.

The ecologist association La Vega Baja no se Vende and the residents' association from San Miguel de Salinas 'San Miguel Arcángel' had presented a formal complaint to the Regional High Court in 2007. According to the sentence passed by the court, the regional government has to re-start the whole process if they want the motorway to be built, as several irregularities have occurred. 

One of these was that the environmental impact study was presented in March 2007, even though the scheme was approved in July 2006. The scheme included three alternative routes for the road but only one study was carried out - and this was for the route proposed by the regional government.

According to the pressure groups, "Building three new motorways in the Vega Baja - the CV-95, the CV-91 from Guardamar to Orihuela and AP-37 - is not environmentally sustainable and would destroy the countryside and fields."

The news  about the CV-95 comes on the back of the announcement in May by the regional director for public works Ismael Ferrer that the project had been hit by the credit crunch.  He reported that the designated contractors were unable to borrow the 94.4 million Euros they needed from the banks to build the motorway.

The pressure groups suggest that the existing road should be turned into a dual carriageway and the toll on the AP-7 motorway in La Zenia should be lifted.

Simple but effective

Often the most simple ideas are the best. The Ministry for the Interior and the Spanish Red Cross have this week launched a campaign to encourage mobile phone users to store a special 'In case of emergency' phone number onto their handsets.

The number or numbers should be stored as Aa1, Aa2 etc so that they come up first in the phone directory. Emergency services are aware of this and in a situation where they need to contact a relative or friend, they will call these numbers first.

Thank goodness

Orihuela has acquired a machine to remove graffiti as part of their new cleaning contract. They had used a similar machine on the Puente del Rey some time ago and it worked very well.

Removing graffiti can be costly; the council paid 700 Euros to have the graffiti removed from the Santiago and Monserrate churches by a specialised company. Now they can do the work for just the cost of the materials and the labour.

The machine they have acquired sprays a fine talc like sand under pressure at the surface. It is apparently very quick and works on a wide variety of surfaces. Once the graffiti is removed, a quick hose down and the job is complete.

It is annoying that a council has to go to such lengths but at least they can clean the graffiti away now. In the early days at Anfield, we had a policy of removing graffiti as soon as it appeared. Gradually it stopped appearing as the children learnt that it was pointless writing on the walls.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Into the Alps

Well we knew the Tour would hot up in the last week. It was important in the Astana team to set people’s minds at rest about who was the team leader. Armstong or Contador.

Alberto Contador was expected to make an impression on the race on the first day of climbing in the Alps and that’s exactly what he did. He bolted ahead of all his rivals at the base of the final ascent and into the yellow jersey with an impressive display of climbing.

Tomorrow there are two big climbs for the riders, let’s see what Contador can make of those.

Walking the plank

Last night it was the turn of the Christian groups to parade in Orihuela.

One of our favourites were the Piratas Bucaneros. I have to say though some of the pirates looked a little ‘mature’- as if they sailed the seven seas a few times over.


PS One of the guys leading his ‘fila’ (line) was a little too ambitious waving his axe about and managed to cut his scalp. He was darned lucky not to decapitate himself. After a few moments he realised that the blood pouring down his face was his and went off for medical attention. Hopefully he is OK. For sure he will have a sore head this morning.

To see more pictures from the parade click this link.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

More photos for you

To see more of my photographs from the parade of moors in Orihuela click here. As usual click on the thumbnails to see a larger version.

Lethal weapons

IMG_1525 IMG_1540

IMG_1584 IMG_1573IMG_1585IMG_1568



and to think, they worry about people carrying knives in Britain!

The band played on


Last night’s parade of the Moors Comparsas in Orihuela featured our very own band who I have to say looked a darn sight happier than many of the others!

IMG_1608 IMG_1607

That is Christopher from our Spanish class and Raquel, daughter of our hairdresser Juan, on flute.


The prize for having the biggest drum though must go to this guy. You wouldn’t get that in the back of the car.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Have you noticed?

In the left hand sidebar of my blog is a new item, ‘Translate my blog’. It does what it says on the tin i.e. it produces a Google translation of my blog into whatever language you choose from the drop down list.

Don’t expect a perfect translation though – this is more or less a literal translation from my style of English and as many of you will know some phrases just don’t translate well. Let’s try ‘a pig in a poke’ for example which most of my English readers will understand well enough. Do any of my Spanish readers understand "a ciegas"? Ciegas comes from the verb to blind so really the phrase makes no sense at all.

I’ll try and keep my posts simple but I can’t promise it will always work!

It’s party time!

The programme for the August fiesta to honour San Joaquín has now been published on the Bigastro web site.

The Caliche Championship “San Joaquín 2009” (Plaza de la Concordia)

Seven-a-side soccer, Fronton and Tennis championships (Municipal Polideportivo)

Midnight – The Second Bigastro Music Festival with local DJs (Municipal Polideportivo) (only for the young and the young at heart!)

The nine days in honour of San Joaquín

7:30pm - Solemn prayer
8pm – Holy Mass

9pm  - Coronation of the Queens and their ladies 2009 (come and support Gordon and Ann – this year’s third age monarchs)
Opening address by PEDRO ESPINOSA FERRER

Followed by a disco.

11am The first competition for crazy cars down the steepest hills of Bigastro. (C/ Obispo Victorio, C/ José Nieto y C/ Luis Gálvez)

9pm - Spectacular parade of the CABALLEROS DEL CID de Bigastro along with the Moors groups ; LOS CONTRABANDISTAS and LOS NAZARIES from Denia. ( Calle Purisima)

11am to 5:30pm - Children’s Fair. (Barrio de la Cruz)
8pm - Traditional Gymkhana of the Comparsas (Parque Huerto del Cura)
8:45pm – Trumpet and organ recital by the duo - VIRTUS (in the church. Ntra. Sra. de Belén)

8pm – Children’s parade with animation (From Unamuno Schools)
11:30pm - Official inauguration of the barracas (Parque Huerto del Cura)
followed by  Discomóvil.

Midday– Uncle Tractor
12:30 pm - Tapeo in the street (Calle Antonio Perez Gálvez)
2pm- the Fifth Gastronomic Day (Plaza de la Concordia) (join the queue early or risk having an empty plate)
9pm - Traditional parade of the Comparsas (this is when they get soaked!)
1am - the Band Ying Yang (Parque Huerto del Cura)
followed by  Discomóvil.

Midday – the Tractor will be going round the streets of the town handing out very cold beer!
12:30pm - Tapeo in the street (great value for money and a chance to taste traditional food)
7:30pm – The parade of floral offerings for San Joaquín (well worth seeing)
8:30pm – Mass (Plaza de la Constitución)
11pm  Special concert  for  San Joaquín by the Sociedad Unión Musical of Bigastro (Plaza de la Constitución)
1am– Performance by the JUBARS OF BIGASTRO (Parque Huerto del Cura)

9:30 and 11:00am - Solemn Mass to honour the Virgen de la Asunción
11am – Final of the Caliche competition followed by the presentation of the prizes to the (Place of the Concord)
Midday- Last day for the tractor
12:30 pm - Last day to enjoy tapeo in the street
9pm- Multicoloured parade of the comparsas (very popular event)
1am - Traditional Alborada (starting from Plaza Ramón y Cajal) (highly recommended)
followed by the Grupo Bolero 7 and then Discomóvil (Parque Huerto del Cura)

9:30am - Holy Mass
Midday - Solemn Mass to honour San Joaquín
1pm - Traditional Mascletá (very loud firework display
8:30pm - Solemn procession to honour the patron saint (carried on the shoulders – this is well worth seeing
1am – Variety show including the comedian  Paco Calonge.
Finally Discomóvil.

So, a packed programme with plenty to amuse the young, adults, the not so young and the young at heart.

Just a reminder:- We Brits need to sort something our for the Gastronomic day.

You should be able to pick up your programme for the fiesta from the second lottery shop on Calle Purisima soon. 


For those how haven’t come across these.


In the new park (near to the new post office in Bigastro) there is a special dog’s toilet area. Nicely fenced off with a gate, this sand covered spot is where you can take your dog to go to the toilet. I think the idea is that you clear the mess up once the dog has finished but obviously one owner hadn’t realised that and had left the evidence for the flies to examine. Still that was better than leaving the mess on the pavement.

Actually this is a really nice park and a great asset to the area.

P1010126  P1010132

We noticed though that someone has already vandalised one of the benches by taking a chunk out of it. Such a shame!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Congratulations go to Mark Cavendish for his eighth stage win in the Tour de France. He now equals Barry Hoban’s British record of tour stage wins and has regained the green points jersey.

Hungry for a stage win themselves, the rest of the peleton are making it harder for Mark to get to the front. I don’t think they will be successful though. Mark aims to win more stages this year including the final stage in Paris.

Oldest mother dies of cancer

Do you remember the story about the lady who became the world’s oldest mother at the age of 66?

María Carmen del Bousada de Lara gave birth to twins at a clinic in Barcelona in 2006 following in vitro treatment in Los Angeles. Now, at the age of 69, the lady has died of cancer leaving the children for her family to take care of.

Because her mother had lived to be 101, the Spaniard believed that she would be live long enough to raise the children herself. That has not proven to be the case and has lead to questions about the need for stricter controls about the age limits for women to receive in vitro treatment.

It is thought possible that the drugs used for her fertility treatment might have contributed to the spread of the lady’s cancer. 

Why not take the lot

Not exactly local but such a bizarre story.image

Thieves have stolen a complete factory from an industrial estate in Sagunto, just north of Valencia. The robbery involved taking the building apart, leaving only the frame behind.

Not even the windows, nor the machinery inside, was left after the metal walls and roof were taken off.They even took the air conditioning.

Even more astonishing is the fact that the robbery, which must have taken a few days to complete, happened in broad daylight, during typical factory opening hours, without arousing any suspicion from other workers on the industrial estate.

The owner only discovered the theft by accident. As he was driving past the industrial estate one day he saw nothing but four pillars left where his soon-to-be head office used to be located. That must have been a weird moment.

Police are searching for the culprits and presumably the factory.

More fish – less money

The fishing fleet from Torrevieja brought in 600 more tons of fish in the first semester of 2009 than they did in the same period 2008. However, because of the lowered prices at market, their income dropped by 50,000€.

From January to June of this year the boats brought in 1.623.863 kilos of fish – mainly melvas (a variety of tuna). Captures of sardines and boquerón (a small fish like whitebait) are down to about half of what they were last year.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


All sources tell us that the new Windows 7 is HUGE improvement on Vista and is an awful lot better than XP.

However, Vista now runs smoothly on my PC - it didn't to start with. So do I upgrade or not. Since it is not actually an upgrade but a clean install which basically means reformatting my hard drives and then installing Windows 7 followed by all the programs I use with my fingers crossed that they all work - the answer is probably NO. For others who are experiencing problems with Vista or XP it may be a different story.

Those of you keen to try it will be interested to hear.

Officially the new upgraded software will go on sale on October 22 to the general public. However, a pre-sale has begun today for all eager Microsoft early adopters.

Prices have been considerably lowered which means for this limited pre-sale period Windows Home Premium is available for £49.99 instead of £149.99 and Windows 7 Professional for £99.99 instead of £189.99.

The company has said stocks are limited of the product and will be sold on a first come first served basis. The offer runs from July 15 to August 9.

All editions are all single-license, meaning they can only be installed on one computer.

All UK versions of Windows 7 will come without Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser pre-installed due to the company’s ongoing battle with the European Union.

This means that computer users will have to download and install a web browser of their choice when they upgrade their computer to Microsoft’s new operating system.

People can buy the software at discounted prices from shops and ecommerce sites such as:, Comet, Currys, John Lewis and Tesco.

The price of fuel

According to the Costa Blanca News - petrol prices have climbed by nearly 10 per cent in the last month, in part thanks to a 2.9-cents-per-litre tax hike approved by the government in June.

Prices at the pump started the week at 1.083 Euros a litre for 95-octane petrol and 0.953 Euros a litre for diesel, up 7.7 per cent and nine per cent, respectively, from the beginning of June. The increases were despite a slight lowering of prices over the last week, by 1.5 per cent and 0.8 per cent, respectively.

Nonetheless, we are paying nowhere near as much for a fill-up as we did at this time last year. A 55-litre tank of petrol costs 59.50 Euros now, down 13 per cent from a year ago, and the same tank-full of diesel costs 52.40 Euros, down 26 per cent.

Prices peaked in July of 2008 at 1.276 Euros a litre for 95-octane petrol and 1.329 Euros a litre for diesel, after oil prices had shot up to nearly $150 a barrel. They then began a steady decrease, with monthly drops up to February of this year, when petrol hit a low of 0.85 Euros a litre. By May, the price for petrol had climbed back up above a euro a litre.

The new fuel tax hike of 2.9 cents per litre on both petrol and diesel was approved in mid-June by the cabinet in an effort to providing some relief to the government's recession-stricken coffers. Officials expect it to generate nearly 1.1 billion Euros a year in additional tax revenue.

The weekly shop

Finding the best value in supermarkets is always a problem. Some items may be cheaper in one and others more expensive. The advent of ‘3 for 2’ offers makes the situation even more confusing. If you were being sensible, you could shop around and save money but who wants to waste their days visiting supermarkets for the weekly shop? Like many, I prefer to shop to live not the other way round.

However, in the current economic climate, which in our case means a weak pound against the Euro, we do have to consider getting the best value for the money in our pockets. In a recent survey it was found that Eroski had made the largest cuts in the price of food products between April and June (6.6%).

In all the supermarkets prices had been reduced but by less in El Árbol (1,3%), Maxi-Dia (2,2%), Supercor (2,3%) and Hipercor (2,9%) than they had in Sabeco (4.7%), Alcampo and Supersol (4.3%) and Mercadona (4%).

Although Supersol, El Árbol and Alcampo had reduced the prices of fresh fruit and vegetables by 21%, Mercadona and Carrefour were still cheaper.

The bottom line is that, for a typical shopping basket, Mercadona still leads the field; followed by Alcampo and Sabeco. El Corte Inglés continues to be the most expensive.

Catch 22

There has been a lot of debate and protest about the proposed new roads for this area. Clearly the intention of the national and regional government is to produce a better infrastructure that will help the camarca develop and ease congestion at peak times.

What might have suited a rural Vega Baja will not be sufficient for a region moving forward and looking to the future. There has been talk of the Vega Baja becoming the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Spain - a marriage of high tech industry with a rural economy. Whether that is feasible or not, I can’t say. What I can say though is that this sort of development couldn't happen with the existing road network.

As far as I can gather, there are three new roads which are at the centre of the debate; the CV-95 from Orihuela down to Torrevieja and the coast, the CV-91 from Orihuela down to Guardamar del Segura and now the AP-37 linking Alicante to Murcia.

Each will of course cut across land that is currently being used for crops and will necessitate demolition of houses. Each will cause a great deal of inconvenience whilst they are being constructed.

In addition there is the new high speed rail link to consider. The AVE also ploughs across the region affecting, amongst other places, Callosa del Segura. Apart from the problem of the Sierra de Callosa, there has been a lot of debate about whether the route should be above or below ground as the train passes through Orihuela.

The catch for the planners is that no town wants to be left out by being isolated from the improved network of roads. At the same time, they don’t want the roads to cut across their territory. In other words they want the benefits without the attendant problems. The planners need to get it right but they also need to make sure they don’t miss the boat by starting the projects too late. In twenty years time it may be too late to consider how the economy of the Vega Baja can be boosted.

New layout

I don’t know – sometimes you embark on a new project and you quickly realise that far from being a simple ten minute task this is going to take a good hour or so.

As I said yesterday, it was time to update the layout of my blog. Not that there was anything wrong with the layout I was using but it was just a stock template with a few minor tweeks. It was a bit like a Marks and Spencer shirt – fine but you do see a lot of them around.

Those of you who visited this blog during the early part of the process would have found the banner picture way too big. On some screens you may have had to scroll across to see it all.

The question was, by how much to reduce it? Eventually I decided that it had to fit on my netbook so it came down to 1024 pixels wide. At that size it looked a bit awkward on my higher resolution desktop screen so I made a few changes to the picture which I hope you agree looks a lot better.

Many thanks to Pete for his suggestions and his input and to Maz for her kind comment about the new layout. I hope you like it because it could be some time before I change it again!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Nearly forgot again


Basically business as usual. Any day you want to put the sheets out to dry will be fine. Friday might be  little more cloudy but nothing too serious.

Watch it live

The good news for those of you who enjoy the Habaneras competition that Torrevieja holds each year is that you can now watch it online in real time.

Go to from the 23rd to the 30th of July to watch the whole programme of music and choral singing as it happens. 

Help with a new blog

I got this email last night.

Hello Keith,

My name is Peter Little and I live down the road, so to speak, at San Miguel de Salinas. I very much enjoy your blog, and would like to create my own, but am having trouble getting the elements right.

Could you possibly help me? My blog is called 'the view from san miguel' because my house has a nice view out across almonds and oranges, and as a retired advertising copywriter and freelance journalist I have a lot to say about Spain and the world, but so far I've only managed two posts because I'm unhappy with the layout.

Help! I hope you can.

Best wishes,

Peter Little

First off, I am by no means an expert on blogging, far from it. There are blogs out there which are way better than mine.

I took the easy way out when setting up my blog and used one of Blogger’s ‘off the shelf’ templates – Harbour by Douglas Bowman, made a few tweeks to the lettering sizes and colours and added a couple of boxes into the sidebar. Nothing too complicated.

When you visit other’s blogs you can see they have hand crafted their layouts with pictures and elements not available from Blogger. I've had a go at mine. Not sure about the result yet.

One good tip that I can offer is to use Microsoft Live Writer to compose your posts. It is WYSIWYG which makes it a lot easier to get the posts as you would want them. You can get is as a free download from Microsoft’s site.

Peter, I look forward to seeing your blog once you have it sorted. Please send me the address and I’ll make a link in my sidebar. Oh and best of luck.

Monday, July 13, 2009

I bow to an expert


Yesterday I showed this photo of classic cars taken from one of the local papers. My friend Pete, back in England, identifies them from left to right as:-

VW Karmann Ghia (and what a beautiful colour it's in!)
Seat 600
Mini Cooper
Possibly another Karmann Ghia (but the black roof is unusual and it's rare to see two, even at a classic car meet).
Gorgeous Citroen DS21
Citroen 2CV
Another Citroen 2CV
Morris Minor?
Does anyone know?

I’m sure he is right. Of all those, I think I’d be hard pressed to choose between the classy Citroen DS and that yellow car that Pete thinks is a Karmann Ghia. In reality though, I’d rather stick with my Skoda Roomster. Sad I know but it is such a good car.

From crystal clear pools to selling crystals

I’ve had an email from John Reid who, amongst other things, used to clean pools up at Villas Andrea. Many of the Brits here, along with a lot of Spanish locals, knew John and Gladys well – they are really nice people.

A few years ago, John and Gladys moved to the Dordogne where they bought a large property in extensive grounds. There was a lot of work to do to get the house and gardens into shape. Thankfully, the work on the place is nearly finished now so they can enjoy the benefits of this beautifully area of countryside. In this green part of France, John says they often have deer and boar in the garden and have a nesting pair of hawks at the back of the property.

It sounds like John and Gladys have settled well in France and have even been invited to join the dinner club that meets each month in a local cafe - sounds wonderful. I expect venison and wild boar regularly feature on the menu!

John tells me that he has taken to helping some of his neighbours out with their pools but doesn’t really want to go back fully into that business. Instead, he is running a small crystal jewellery business visiting fetes, markets etc. much as he did with those wonderful candles that he used to sell.

John goes on to explain that he has been working on this new enterprise for about four months now and has set up a website at I’m sure he is doing well, John has a lot of imagination and drive which, combined with his charming personality, will win him many clients.

He concludes by sending Darren and Hazel his best wishes in the hope that their venture up at La Pedrera is a great success for them. I’m sure they will appreciate that.

So do drop by at John’s website and see what he has to offer. I’m sure he will give you a good price!

Thank you for the email, it was great to hear from you.

PS John tells me that if anyone wants to buy anything from the site they should enter SPCR1 at checkout to receive a 10% discount on purchases over 15 euro (easy to do !)

That is really nice jewellry that John is selling at prices are low enough already. With a 10% discount, you are getting quality items at bargain prices.

Oh and John and Gladys' house in Bigastro is still up for sale if anyone is interested. I don't think you can use that discount code to get 10% off the price though.

Tale from the Tour

Watching the stage yesterday was a reminder of the tale of Eugène Christophe, who in 1913 was well placed to win Le Tour. He rode the first part, from Paris to Cherbourg and then down the coast to the Pyrenees cautiously. He was in second place when the race stopped in Bayonne on the night before the first day in the mountains. The field set off at 3am with Christophe 4m 5s behind Odile Defraye, of Belgium. The route that day included the cols; Oschquis, Aubisque, Soulor, Gourette, Tourmalet, Aspin and Peyresourde.

Christophe’s Peugeot team attacked the rival Alcyon riders from the start. The tactic worked and by Barèges, at the foot of the Tourmalet, Defraye had dropped out leaving Christophe in first place well ahead of the rest of the Tour. He stopped at the top of the Tourmalet and reversed his back wheel to pick a higher gear for the descent.

Then in Christophe’s own words:

I plunged full speed towards the valley. According to Henri Desgrange's calculation, I was then heading the general classification with a lead of 18 minutes. So, I was going full speed. All of a sudden, about ten kilometres from Ste-Marie-de-Campan down in the valley, I feel that something is wrong with my handlebars. I cannot steer my bike any more. I pull on my brakes and I stop. I see my forks are broken. Well, I tell you now that my forks were broken but I wouldn't say it at the time because it was bad publicity for my sponsor.
And there I was left alone on the road. When I say the road, I should say the path. All the riders I had dropped during the climb soon caught me up. I was weeping with anger. I remember I heard my friend Petit-Breton shouting as he saw me, 'Ah, Cri-Cri, poor old lad.' I was getting angry. As I walked down, I was looking for a short cut. I thought maybe one of those pack trails would lead me straight to Ste-Marie-de-Campan. But I was weeping so badly that I couldn't see anything. With my bike on my shoulder, I walked for more than ten kilometres. On arriving in the village at Ste-Marie-de-Campan, I met a young girl who led me to the blacksmith on the other side of the village. His name was Monsieur Lecomte.

It took two hours to reach the forge. Lecomte offered to weld the broken forks back together but a race official and managers of rival teams would not allow it. In those days a rider was responsible for his own repairs. So Christophe set about the repair as Lecomte told him what to do. It took three hours to complete the work and then the race judge penalised him 10 minutes - reduced later to three - because Christophe had allowed a small boy, Corni, to pump the bellows for him.

Christophe eventually finished seventh in Paris. The building on the site of the forge has a plaque commemorating the episode.

Today of course, riders are mollycoddled. No longer do they have to start a stage at 3am, just so they can climb seven high mountains. Certainly nobody would dream of them doing their own repairs. Taking part in the Tour in the early days was only for real men!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Not a pretty sight


In spite of a persistent campaign, leaflets printed in English and notices on lampposts, the estate continues to be littered with dog muck.

Just who is to blame? I can’t recall seeing dogs roaming around without their owners and people from outside the estate are unlikely to bring their pets this far (this is on Calle Le Vegan) so I can only conclude that it must be people living here.

It isn’t a pretty sight and it is downright unhygienic. I’m afraid I don’t have an answer to this one. If someone has, then please let me know at and I will post any sensible ones on my blog.

What a delight


To be able to go for a walk in the morning and be intoxicated with the aroma of pine.

They’ll need a rest after this

Yesterday's trip through the mountain of the Pyrenees caused little upset to the main contenders who were happy to roll along in the peleton. However, it was a good win for Spain's Luis Leon Sanchez who timed his sprint just right to beat Sandy Cesar at the line.

Of the British riders, Bradley Wiggins looked good again but sadly Mark Cavendish lost the green jersey to the Norwegian Tor Hushovd.


Today there are two major climbs; the Col dAspin followed by the Col du Tourmalet. These should test the legs of the contenders a bit more and maybe give us a clue as to who might be the eventual winner.

Sorry about that


In reply to the question about fiestas that are going on at the moment I should have remembered the one in Algorfa  which is in full swing at the moment.

Yesterday it was the return of the classic cars to the streets – I see there are a few Brits in there.

Today it is the romeria of the Virgen del Carmen to the hermitage – that is at 8:30am returning at 7:30pm. There is a lunch today of sardines from the barbecue.

More stats

Ianinspain asks in relation to the item I posted yesterday about “the state of play”

Hi, any chance of you knowing a web site where I can download this 'Study', I'm intrigued as to see the raw stats. Thanks in advance.

According to the source, the study was undertaken by Caja España but doesn’t seem to feature on their web site. So I am sorry but I can’t help.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

No contest

Because of the economic situation, Almoradí is cutting its fiesta down this year by one day.

Even still, on Saturday 25th July, after the Fiesta Queens have been crowned, they have booked Soraya (Spain’s 2009 entrant into Eurovision) to perform.


I ask you, who would you rather go to see on a Saturday night: some cheesy English singer past their prime on the coast or a hot Spanish bit of totty giving it (and almost showing) her all?

PS Sandy Shaw never looked that good!

Who leads the Astana team?

Some years the Tour de France is, if not boring, a little predictable. The race favourite gets into yellow early on and keeps the jersey all the way to Paris. Not this year though. Fabian Cancellara won the jersey in the first stage and managed to hold on to it until the race turned towards the mountains.

Yesterday, the Frenchman Brice Feillu won the stage to Andorra and Rinaldo Nocentini, who was in the breakaway group, took the yellow jersey.

The surprise though was Alberto Contador who shot off the main group with two kilometres to go leavingimage Armstrong behind. Of course, being in the same team, Armstrong didn’t respond. The 22 seconds that Contador gained over Armstrong by virtue of this move put him ahead of his team rival by 2 seconds.

The other surprise was Englishman Bradley Wiggins who was outstanding on the climb and now lies in fifth place overall just 46 seconds off the pace. C’mon Bradley!

Today, the Tour is back in the mountains and back into France with Stage 8 Andorre-la-Vieille Saint-Girons.

We will have to wait and see what drama unfolds today.

This is gripping stuff – far better than any football match! There are tactics, politics and team loyalty involved in Le Tour. Added to which you get to see breathtaking views of the countryside.

Hopefully there won’t be any drugs scandals this year!

Fiesta time

I was asked yesterday whether there were any local fiestas coming up. I do not claim to be an expert on these matters, I only report on what information I find from local news and obviously miss quite a lot.

On the 15th June mentioned the Turivega web site project that Convega is working on. This is probably the best source of information about what is going on and when.

They don't have full information about all 27 municipalities yet but that will come.

There is a fascinating section about Moors and Christians on the site which is worth looking at -

In our opinion, of all the fiestas for Moors and Christians, the one in Orihuela takes some beating.

  1. For those who like fireworks and loud bangs; on the 14th at 11pm at the Glorieta de Gabriel Miró in Orihuela they will be re-enacting the taking of the castle by the Christians.
  2. At 8:30pm on the 16th you can watch the children’s parade in Orihuela. Then on Friday 17th it is the turn of the Moors groups to parade at 8pm. On Saturday 18th at 9pm the Christian groups will follow the same route.
For a taste of what to expect, click on the link in the sidebar to see my pictures from last year.

The state of play in 2008

San Fulgencio had the highest percentage of foreign residents in Spain with expats making up 76.9% of the population.

The figures - along with others relating to expat numbers in the Vega Baja - are contained the annual study published this week by the bank, Caja España.

Other municipalities with over half the registered population being non-Spanish included Rojales (73.9%), Algorfa (68.7%), Benijófar (58.5%) and Torrevieja (53.5%).

Numbers of Brits

Algorfa held the highest percentage of Brits amongst the foreign residents with a whopping 83.3%.

It was followed by San Fulgencio (65.9%), Catral (61%), Los Montesinos (59.6%), Rojales (56.7%) and Benijófar (55.1%).

The British also made up more than half of the total population in Algorfa (2,361 out of 4,125) and in San Fulgencio (5,882 out of 11,594).

The municipalities in the Vega Baja with the most registered Brits were Orihuela (16,327), Torrevieja (12,550), Rojales (8,070), San Fulgencio (5,882) and Pilar de la Horadada (4,282).

In Bigastro we hardly figured. According to the data for 2008, there were 226 Brits which represented 22% of the foreign population. The total population in that year was 6,967 of which 971 (13.9%) were foreigners and 3.2% were Brits.

All the figures are taken from data relating to the 2008 municipal census (padrón).

I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the percentage of Brits, if not the numbers, in Bigastro has gone down this year because of the virtual collapse of sales of houses to Brits and the number of births to nationals.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Be warned

Motorist need to be aware that DGT in Alicante announced a crackdown on drink driving which started last Monday. Trafico say they will carry out 15,000 random tests on drivers in the period up to the 15th July.

In a similar campaign in the two weeks before Christmas lead to 182 drivers being found over the limit.

The penalty for being over the limit can be a prison sentence of between three and six months, a substantial fine or community service and a loss of your licence of between one and four years.

As in many countries, drink driving in Spain accounts for many deaths on the roads.

A fine of 90 euros

The ex Deputy Mayor of San Fulgencio, Manuel Barrera, who was ousted from his position following an alleged corruption scandal late last year, has been found guilty of threatening to kill his former colleague, Mark Lewis.

A judge in Orihuela ordered Barrera to pay a fine of 90€. The denuncia was made by Mr Lewis against Mr Barrera on January 6th this year, following a confrontation in the street whilst he was talking to a friend.

According to the court papers, Mr Barrera stopped his car adjacent to where Mr Lewis and his wife were chatting to their friend and made a gesture with his finger going from one side of the neck to the other, indicating that he was going to cut his throat and implying that Mr Lewis’ life was in danger. A guilty judgement was passed and a fine of six euros per day for 15 days was handed to Barrera by the judge but a request for 600€ damages by Mr Lewis was rejected.

I wonder how much public money it cost to get this case through the court.

The Tour goes up.

Yesterday the weather was just awful for Le Tour. It was  lashing it down in Barcelona during the morning. The weather improved by the afternoon but the roads were still treacherous so plenty of crashes.

Today sees Le Tour enter the mountains with a stage from Barcelona to Andorre Arcalis. As you can see there is a bit of a hill at the end of the stage which should sort out the wheat from the chaff.  


Actually, even if you are not a cycling fan, the Eurosport coverage is so good it is worth watching just for the views.