Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A mere coincidence?

With all the rain we have been having recently, people’s pools have been filling up and up. That was certainly the case with mine. In fact it had got to the point where I thought I should drain a few inches away to waste to avoid the pool overflowing.

I didn’t get round to draining the excess water so, with all the rain on Monday, I expected my pool to be full to the brim but it wasn’t. The level had stayed the same which alerted me to the fact that I had a problem.

It stopped raining on Monday night so no more water was going into the pool. By yesterday morning the level of water had dropped which confirmed what I suspected: I had a leak somewhere. I closed the valve which connects the skimmer to the pool pump to isolate that as the cause and waited to see what happened.

Sure enough, the water level has now dropped to the bottom of the skimmer and the box inside is dry which confirms that the leak is somewhere in that pipe. Thankfully, it hasn’t dropped any further which suggests that the other pipes are OK *.

Fortunately we know of a builder who can repair the pipe for me. We know this because he has already done the same repair for several people on the estate - all of whom had their pools constructed via the builder, Star Sol.

That leads me to wonder, “is it a mere coincidence that several of us have experienced the same problem years after the pools were completed?”

* The pipe to the skimmer is only a foot or two under the terrace and is also the shortest of the pipes from the pool box to the pool. To replace is involves taking up the terrace tiles, digging down below the pipe, replacing it and then making good. A pain in the butt but it could be worse.

The closed car park

At the council meeting yesterday, the mayor, Raúl Valerio Medina, announced that the town council are going to carry out an audit to investigate the overrun of costs in building the car park La Paz.

The original budget was for 1.4 million Euros. By the time the car park was finished, the constructor put the cost at 2.3 million; an overrun of 850,000 Euros which the council have refused to pay. That is why the car park is closed and has been, apart from the week of the fiesta, since it was completed.

Obviously estimates are just that and there is leeway for the council to approve an overspend but not by such  a large amount. Municipal technicians claim that the extra cost should have been in the order of 350,000 Euros. Legal proceedings will be conducted to determine the real value and so avoid an excessive strain on the town’s budget.

The other main item of interest at the meeting was the budget for the town. Following all the allegations about budgets in the past, the council has been extra careful in presenting the figures for 2009 which is why they have been delayed.

As far as increases in council tax are concerned, the mayor explained that the extra 200,000 Euros was due to revisions in cadastral values taking account of those houses which had not been previously valued. In fact, as the mayor pointed out, the multiplier, that is applied to obtain the amount of tax to be paid, has been maintained at 0.65 which he claims is one of the lowest in the area.

New centre opens its doors

One of the projects that has been undertaken using money from the Plan de Inversión Local (FEIL) has been the remodelling of the Department of Social Security in the Centro Social Integrado here in Bigastro.

Now that the work, which has employed eight people and cost 11,304, 77 €, is complete, they are ready to open the doors.

On Thursday, there will be a Day of Open Doors when you will be able to visit the new premises and see the workshop for risoterapia*

* Risoterapia is laughter therapy:- In the sessions, laughter is used to remove emotional blocks, physical, mental, sexual, healing our childhood, a process of personal growth.

After a two-hour session, they claim that you feel full, loving, tender, cheerful, vital, energetic with a lot of positive feelings.

They say that laughter is the best medicine; apparently risoterapia proves that claim to be true.

Project ends

The project “Voices from Water” was closed with a seminary held in the Italian town of Latina last Friday.

Three towns; Cullera (Greece), Bigastro (Spain) and Latina (Italy) have collaborated on this project which was about the way water resources are managed by them.

Bigastro’s contribution was of course the traditional system of irrigation of the kitchen garden which is illustrated in the International Observatory of the Kitchen Garden situated in the old slaughter house near the Polideportivo. In addition, bigastrense children did a lot of work related to the “Voices from Water” project as part of their summer school.

Now that the project has finished, Bigastro has indicated its willingness to collaborate with other projects in the future.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A precaution

For the moment, the south of Alicante province is on orange alert for heavy rain. Therefore, as a precautionary measure, the Bigastro town council have cancelled all sports activities at the Municipal Polideportivo until further notice.

The special mass


The mass organised by the Hermandad de la Virgen de Belén took place on Saturday at the parish church in Bigastro.

During the course of this traditional mass, the President of the Brotherhood, D. Joaquín Ortuño, appointed D. Francisco Grau Honorary Life Member of the Brotherhood of the VIrgin of Bethlehem.

One of the first things that Francisco Grau did, when he was appointed General was to offer his fajin (his commemorative belt) to the Virgin in the church. On that occasion the band played a concert in tribute to Francisco Grau.

Fortunately it didn’t rain on Saturday evening otherwise that immaculate white uniform would have got rather dirty.

I had intended to go down into Bigastro to take some photographs myself but following my health scare on Friday, decided against it. Thankfully there was someone there with a camera to record the occasion.

That was bad


The gota fria yesterday unloaded an average of 80 litres of water per square metre of land in just six hours. It was the worst that the area has experienced since the 30th September1997 when 270 litres fell in about the same time span. Alicante was worst hit. There the average rose to 113 litres of water per square metre.

Locally, 3 kilometres of the road from Bigastro to Jacarilla (CV 920) was badly flooded as was the road from San Miguel de la Salinas to Los Montesinos (CV 940). The N332 was also flooded around Guardamar and Torrevieja.

Pam and I can confirm this because we set off to Torrevieja to visit the dentist yesterday at about 12am. There were patches of flooding on the CV91 where you had to take care. Water was overflowing the storm drain onto the road but worse than that, water was coming off the campo at the access points with the main road. They were passable with care which in fairness most motorists were demonstrating but then there is always the one.  On more than one occasion, our car was covered by a wave of water created by a motorist passing in the other direction at speed.

We turned towards Los Montesinos on the CV 945 which at first didn’t seem as bad as the road we had left. As we got towards the junction with the AP7 motorway the flooding across the road where paths led from the orange groves to the left was getting worse and worse. You had to pick the place where you thought the water was most shallow and drive with great care. Nobody was speeding through those sections!

Realising that the rain was simply not abating and that the situation on the roads was possibly going to get even worse, we turned back and returned to Bigastro. As it happens, the CV 905 road from Crevillente to Torrevieja experienced severe delays with serious flooding so we would have probably missed the dental appointment anyway.

When we left our house at about 10:30am, the road to the town was clear. By the time we returned, it was awash with yellow water. The torrent of water was running over the water collector at the junction with the road to the dam as if it wasn’t there. Further up, at the point where the storm drain that follows Calle Le Vigan spills out onto the road, it looked impassable. I decided that the force of the water coming out at that point would have made it very difficult to get through so I followed the route around Calle Holanda, up Calle Francia to join Calle Le Vigan from above the junction with our road.  

imageIt is all calm this at the moment but, as you can see on this picture from AEMET, there is a massive cloud mass to the right which is circling around in the anticyclone. That will bring more rain later in the day. From then on though, things should get better and the following days should be drier. I wouldn’t plan on going to the beach anytime this week though.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I am trying

When you want to know what the weather is going to be like you go to the most reliable source, the one that has proved to be most accurate in the past. If their prediction doesn’t suit, you go to other sources to try and find a better one. Then you convince yourself that the best forecast you can find might just be the right one.

At the moment I am having great difficulty finding any forecast that suits me.


Judging from the prediction from AEMET, I think we can expect no let up until Wednesday.


Here is Meteo Sam’s take on the weather for today and tomorrow.


I’m not keen on all that thunder and lightening but at least he says it will stop raining.


the BBC predictions for this area are never right so I will ignore that one.


this one from Weather Bug is about the best I can find so we will go with this.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A warm welcome to Steve

I got this email this morning.

Hi Keith...

Just a quick word to say 'thank you' for your excellent blog which, because of the bad weather this morning, I have just been reading.

I arrived in the region three weeks ago from France, where I have been living these past 5+ years, after having sold my home and business and am currently renting a small apartment at Playa Flamenca. Being taken to view a property on Calle Alemania, Bigastro at the beginning of the month I fell in love with the house immediately and made an offer to purchase it the day after. I should be moving to your estate within three weeks or so.

Your Web site has made me look forward to moving into the house even more. The biggest problem will be the disposal of items of furniture (I brought too much down with me!)

I hope that you are feeling much better, after your recent health scare, and I very much look forward to becoming part of your community very shortly.

With best wishes - Steve

Thanks Steve for your comments. I'm glad that reading my blog has encouraged you to want to join our community here in Bigastro. I’m sure you will find your new neighbours, both at Villas Andrea and in the town, very welcoming.

Hopefully the weather will be better on the day of your move.

PS Once you have settled, call in at the Ayuntamiento and register on the padron. You will find it in the main town square next to the church. Whilst you are there, you can pick up a map of Bigastro to help find your way around.

Many thanks

Thanks go to all those people who telephoned, called round or emailed yesterday to ask about my condition. Your kindness is much appreciated.

As most of you know, I was diagnosed with hypertension in March and put onto tablets to bring my blood pressure down. The tablets have worked well and my bp has dropped to acceptable levels.

However, once I was taking Ixia Plus, I started to get pains in my chest which I imagine were similar to those suffering angina. My doctor sent me to visit a cardiologist in Orihuela who concluded that the pains were a result of cholesterol in my blood and prescribed tablets to reduce it.

Since then the pains in the chest have reduced to almost nothing and I have felt a lot better. I recently went for a colour doppler test which confirmed that I was suffering from hypertension and had light blockage of the arteries; nothing that my doctor wasn't already aware of. My ECGs have all been normal which indicates that there is no damage to the heart.

My blood pressure does vary quite a bit and can drop to low levels on certain days. I generally know when that is the case because I feel light headed when that happens. Drinking copious amounts of water is a quick cure.

Friday I felt fine and enjoyed my meal up at the Pedrera. Of course, fried fish and chips are strictly forbidden on the diet sheet the doctor gave me to help reduce my cholesterol but everyone needs a treat now and then. In my defence, I have stuck to the diet and have lost 8 kilograms of weight as a result. The last time I ate anything as bad for me as fish and chips was March.

The problem for me on Friday was that my blood pressure was obviously low that day. Then, having eaten a large meal, blood would have rushed to my stomach to help digest it reducing the pressure in my arteries further. The brandies that I had wouldn’t have helped either. People who suffer low blood pressure (hypotension) are advised to eat small meals and avoid alcohol. DOH - foolish man I hear you say.

When your blood pressure drops to a level significantly below normal, the blood drains from your head, you faint, the colour goes from your face and organs start to shut down: all of which happened to me on Friday night. The first organs to suffer are usually the kidneys which is why I had pains in my lower back.

So how am I now?

Yesterday, I was tired (not surprising given a lack of sleep) and my blood pressure was still low. On the advice of the lady in the hospital, I didn’t take one of my Ixia Plus tablets which would have reduced the pressure further. Today, I feel a lot better. My blood pressure is back up to normal levels.

I can’t stop taking tablets for blood pressure because if I do It will rise again and I will put myself in danger of a heart attack or stoke. It may be that I need different tablets to the ones I currently take. When I visit my doctor on Monday he will decide on that.

In the meantime I am still here and hope to be for a long time yet. I’ve got a lot to look forward to in life including a grandchild due in February. If for no other reason, I need to be around a lot longer to make sure he or she is kept on track!

Brace yourself

imageIt looks like we could be in for a lot more rain during the next few days. That swirling mass of cloud in this picture is the anticyclone which is bringing foul weather to the south of Spain and the Balearic Islands.

The whole of Alicante province is on orange alert for rain until at least Wednesday. The area is also on yellow alert for thunder –in act I’ve just heard the rumble of a distant thunderclap that heralds the start of a storm.

Pictures on the Spanish weather channel showed flooding in parts of Spain yesterday. No doubt we will see further pictures tomorrow.

It’s at times like this that you need a good stock of DVDs and books to keep you going.

Trying to sort out the confusion

In Spain there are lots of words which translate similarly in English but may not necessarily refer to the same thing. These sort of anomalies can lead to confusion for those of us trying to learn the language.

One example are the terms Cofradía and Hermandad both mean Brotherhood. On the face of it, they seem to be interchangeable but I imagine there is a subtle difference which eludes me at the moment. Perhaps one of my Spanish readers could explain the difference.

A lot of the references to Cofradías that you find are related to those that parade during Semana Santa (Easter). They carry and accompany the pasos which tell the story of the passion of Christ and the events of Holy Week.

Although most of the Cofradías and Hermadades are religious in nature, you also find Cofradías de Pescadores or fishermen which are similar to the guilds in Britain.

The Cofradías de Pescadores have a thousand years of history in Spain. Although they only cover coastal fishing, there are 229 of them and they control 83% of fishing employment in the country.

I don’t know whether there are similar guilds for other trades; I can’t find any references to them online.

Cofradías in Bigastro (list taken from the Bigastro web site)
San Joaquín.
Ntra. Sra. de Belén.
Cristo Resucitado.
Hijas de María.
Virgen del Carmen.
Sagrado Corazón.
Santa Rita.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A lesson

Last night’s moment of drama has taught us a few lessons.

  1. Always carry your mobile phone.
  2. Always have some money on you if only to pay for the taxi back from hospital (fortunately we had enough with us last night).
  3. Carry the phone number of a taxi and an interpreter with you.
  4. Have your SIP card with you at all times.
  5. Make sure your Spanish is good enough to explain what your problem is (thankfully ours was last night).
  6. Maybe it would be a good idea if Pamela drove my car just in case she needs to in an emergency.

It wasn’t the fish

P1010405Pam experienced a bit of a scare last night.

We’d been for fish and chips to La Pedrera and were relaxing in the bar with some of our neighbours when I started to feel unwell. Before we could leave though, I apparently collapsed, the colour drained from my face which had dropped to one side and my arm was shaking. Pam’s first thought was that I was having a stroke and so asked the people there to call an ambulance.

Before the ambulance arrived, I’d been taken to the toilet and doused with water which brought me round. At that point I had an intense pain in my kidneys which was coming and going for a few minutes. It was most uncomfortable but at least I was back to consciousness.

By the time the ambulance arrived, I felt much better (as you often do) but of course needed to go to hospital just to check things out.

The ambulance man took my blood pressure and blood sugar level both of which were low. In fact my blood pressure was very low – way below normal.

When I got to the Emergency Department at Vega Baja, they gave me an ECG and took a blood sample for analysis. They also put me on a saline drip.

Thankfully, neither the ECG nor the blood test showed any indication of problems so the ladies who attended me concluded that it was simply my low blood pressure that had caused me to collapse.

On Monday, I will go to see Dr Cartegena and see whether he thinks I would benefit from a different form of tablets to regulate my blood pressure. It may be that the Ixia Plus, that has regulated my pressure well, is now more than I need.

As Pam said when we got home, it was so lucky that the incident occurred in the bar and not outside on the way home.

Apart from the fact that I could have fallen on the ground and done some real damage, I was amongst people who acted so well in the situation. I really cannot thank those people enough for their help – they were brilliant.

  • Jeff, who I think it was caught me and stopped me from falling to the floor
  • José and Darren from La Pedrera for tending to me and organising the ambulance
  • Joaquín, who lives down the road from us on Avenida Europa, for very kindly bringing Pamela to the hospital to be with me
  • and even the security guard who went down the road in the buggy to direct the ambulance up to the Albergue.

I’m sure I will have missed someone out and I do apologise for that. I am really sorry to have given people a fright and hope that I didn’t spoil anyone’s night too much.

Thank you once again for all your help and finally I must point out that it was definitely not the fish and chips that caused the problem – they were excellent.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Another point of view

Pete has posted this comment in relation to my item yesterday about the proposed total ban on smoking in bars here in Spain.

It's a tough one Keith. My civil libertarianism wants to make a place for smokers, but my selfishness doesn't.
But my problem , as is always the case, isn't the regulation - it's the people.

The concept of smoking and non smoking areas is a nonsense. Unless you are completely physically segregated with double door airlock like systems between them then you get cross contamination. It also takes incredibly little smoke to upset a non smoker, and smokers do not, and in fairness cannot, realise how much the smoke smells.

I think the problem is down to a minority with no consideration. I can't tell you how many concerts, meals - even airshows, that I have had spoiled by smokers. Smokers also generally think that outside is totally fair game and won't bother anyone, even in the middle of a densely packed crowd.

If bars were separately licensed, and smoking licenses were granted in proportion to the smoking population - be that one bar in three, four, five, whatever - I'd be completely happy. I would totally and completely support smoking rooms in airports and public buildings.

The moral imperative here though, and one that doesn't work for fatty foods and caffeinated drinks, is the element of choice. If I choose to drink gallons of strong coffee, it doesn't upset you very much. But it only takes one person smoking a cigarette badly to piss off as many as fifty people. And that's where it gets messy. And yes, the same argument DOES apply to alcohol, and yes I'd cheerfully ban that tomorrow as well.

If everyone was considerate to everyone else's needs, smokers and non-smokers alike, then a problem would not exist.

I can’t argue with any of that. Even though I have been a pipe smoker for more years that I care to remember, I sometimes find the smell of cigarette smoke quite unpleasant. In my days of teaching, I used to share lifts with a neighbour. Three our out of the four people in the car were smokers, The owner, who was the non-smoker, allowed us to indulge our habits during the journey to school. There were times when you would have thought we were driving through dense fog added to which the smell of the smoke was atrocious. 

I understand that some non-smokers can tolerate smoke in the air whilst others find it utterly repulsive even distressful. Those of us who do smoke, need to be sensitive to that. I personally would not wish to cause distress to others because of my habit which is why I never light up my pipe in other people’s houses unless I know that they approve. Nor would I smoke in a restaurant or other public place if I thought it would affect others. 

A bit of a mess!

In Bigastro you can’t miss the boards that advertise the work that has been undertaken thanks to the Fondo Estatal para la Inversión Local (FEIL) – Plan E.

Each town in Spain was awarded money to undertake similar projects to those in Bigastro. The aim was to provide local employment and at the same time fund works that will benefit the local communities. There were set criteria for the type of projects and a time scale was set for applications.

It seems that in Torrevieja, due to beauracratic mistakes, five of the six projects that are being carried out are, at the moment, without guaranteed funding. This amounts to 16 million Euros worth of work.

The only project which has guaranteed funding is the work on  lighting at Cabo Cervera, The other projects including the squash courts, the football ground and the rugby pitch are in jeopardy.

We’ve been there


The local town band are booked to play in Mojacar this Saturday.

I’m sure the people of this beautiful town in Almeria will appreciate the band’s music as much as we do here in Bigastro.

Here's hoping that the band enjoy their trip to this beautiful part of the country.

Celebratory Mass

This Saturday, 26th of September at 8pm, in the parish church, a Traditional Mass dedicated to our “patrona” has been organised by the Hermandad de la Virgen de Belén de Bigastro.

The Mass will be celebrated by the parish priest of Bigastro and the Bishop of the Diocese of Orihuela. In addition, the Brotherhood has prepared a tribute to our countryman and Favourite Son of the Locality, the General of the Corps of Brigades of Military Music, D. Francisco Grau Vegara, who will be present.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Spanish classes for this year

Following the phone conversation that I have just had, I can now confirm that Spanish classes for this year will be at the Auditorium Francisco Grau on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:30 to 5:30pm. The first class will be on Monday, 5th October. The teacher will be Ana who taught us before Eduardo took over last year whilst she was having her baby.

EHIC cards

In an earlier post, I reported the changes in the system for obtaining EHIC cards. These changes don’t just affect Spain – this is a Europe wide change to legislation that affects anyone in receipt of a pension.

My understanding, at the time I wrote that post, was that any new cards issued would run out by the end of February.

Pam and I went yesterday to the INSS in Orihuela for our new EHIC cards expecting them to expire in February. In fact, our new cards are valid until 30th April 2010.

So, it seems that replacement cards last for six months which makes sense because it would be impossible for the Department of Works and Pensions to issue new cards to all the ex-pats in March.

I have a vested interest

Plans by the national health ministry to ban smoking in all bars and restaurants have severely angered business owners throughout the Valencia Region.

Although negotiations between the affected businesses and the government have only just begun and are expected to be long and drawn out, the managers' initial stance is an outright rejection of the ban.

The anti-smoking laws were already tightened three years ago. Some businesses reportedly spent up to 10,000 Euros to adapt to the new regulations. The owners of an estimated one in four establishments of more than 100 square metres invested in dividing their bar, restaurant or club into smoking and non-smoking sections. Those renovations would now be rendered outdated and useless under the new legislation.

Affected businesspeople have declared their support for the struggle against tobacco addiction, but stressed that the only way to reduce the number of smokers in Spain is to carry out prevention campaigns and raise awareness about the negative effects of the drug.

A blanket ban in the current climate, with a very high percentage of smokers, would merely leave a vast number of bars empty.

Now for my two pennyworth.

I sympathised with none smokers when they had to put up with going into bars and restaurants filled with smoke. There was no choice because there weren’t any bars designated for non-smokers. They had to either put up with the problem or not go out to public bars. That was clearly unreasonable.

Now things are different, there are total non-smoking bars and non-smoking areas in other bars; restaurants are largely non-smoking areas. I would argue that this is a good working solution because it suits everyone – smoker and non-smoker alike. A total ban only suits one section of the population which actually aren’t the non-smokers.

I believe it is the anti-smokers who are the ones campaigning for a total ban. These are the people who would like to dictate what the rest of us should or should not do. These are the ones who argue for a total ban on smoking per se. They would like to claim that smoking anywhere, whether in private or public, is polluting the atmosphere for everyone. I dare say they would even suggest that smokers are contributing to global warming.

If we are so keen to protect people’s health, why don’t we ban high cholesterol food, caffeinated drinks and the worst offender of the lot – alcohol; none of which are supposedly good for you. But why stop there? Why not go further and ban the sales of fast cars and high powered motor bikes – they kill a lot of people.

I’m sure I could think of many other things that could be banned for the sake of public protection such as mobile phones that were supposed to addle your brain with radiation. If I continued to draw up my list, this post could end up rivalling the contents of Bigastro’s library.

Actually, when I think about it, taking all these measures to safeguard people’s health and well being could cause a problem because we might all end up living longer. Countries like England are already finding it hard to fund the pensions of people living well into their eighties and nineties – we don’t want to add to that by making it possible for people to live even longer! Damn it, for the sake of the economy, we need to all take greater risks with our lives.

Now I am being facetious but you get the point. In my opinion, the measures that have already been put in place are workable. At least people in Spain now have a choice of places to go to. Quite rightly, non-smokers no longer have to put up with a smoke filled room every time they want to go out for a drink because they can choose either a non-smoking bar or a non-smoking area in a bar. Surely that is enough to suit everyone.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Stirring up a hornet’s nest

Aurelio Murcia for the PP party in Bigastro has described the meeting between the Mayor and Encarna Llinares as “paripé” meaning it was just a token gesture – a bit of window dressing. He says that this is the first such meeting to be held in 25 years.

You recall that the meeting was about local security in Bigastro and that one of the issues that was discussed was a police presence outside schools. San José de Calasanz was mentioned as one of the places where traffickers were selling drugs at the school gates. Murcia says this has caused a great deal of worry amongst parents who want to know the basis for this assertion. More to the point, if the council knew that this problem existed, the parents want to know why it has not been acted upon before now.

As far as I know, the drug problem exists at the old building where the school used to be rather than the new site. I say this because whenever we went to our Spanish classes, we saw groups congregating outside the old school building. Cars would come and go as people came to buy drugs. The problem for the police is that, if they moved the traffickers on, then the meetings would occur somewhere else. Whilst the police know where the problem is, they can monitor and contain it.

The leader of the PP goes on to ask why the town does not have a plan for emergencies and suggests that the town should employ three more police officers rather than have so many administrative posts in the council.

On a personal note, why does the newspaper Información insist on using such awful pictures of Aurelio Murcia? The one in today's paper of him sat with his mouth agape is hardly the most flattering image of the man.

Another great idea

image The Council of Social welfare, Woman and Third Age in Bigastro  have set up an interesting new project.

They started with the premise that there is so much that we can learn from each other. All they had to do was to get people together in the right setting and they would have a ready made classroom full of highly qualified teachers who are also very receptive students.

It is such a simple idea which has no cost whatsoever which could benefit a whole lot of people and prove to be a fascinating experiment.

Under the motto "Tú me enseñas, yo te enseño" (“You teach to me, I teach to you”), this new initiative will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5pm to 7pm in the Centro Social Integrado de Bigastro.

A correction

In one of my posts yesterday, I mentioned a trip to Valencia which included a tour of the Palau de la Generalitat which I translated as the seat of the Catalan Government.

Ramón Grau Martinez, who is a bigastrense living abroad has kindly sent me this email explaining my error.

I contact you regarding your post of the trip to Valencia. During the tour, who visit the “Palacio de la Generalitat”, will not visit the Catalan presidency, will visit the Valencian presidency and government.

There is a difference between the Generalitat of Cataluña and the Generalitat Valenciana.

The different regions in Spain (we call them Comunidades Autonomas, total 17), can be also called with different names, for example the Comunidad Murciana can be also called Region de Murcia, the Comunidad of Andalucía can be also called Junta de Andalucía, etc.

With Cataluña we share the same name, in this case Generalitat, but this is because Generalitat is a catalan name and as you know both languages, Catalan and Valenciano are very similar.

I hope I have explained as I want for you to know a bit more of the Spanish culture.

Many thanks for that. For some reason, the word Generalitat generally translates as the Catalan government; you will probably find that reference in quite a few of my posts. In every case, I now understand that should be the Valencian Autonomous Government which makes more sense.

The keen eyed will have spotted that I even got the building wrong. The one I included is in Barcelona, the trip will of course be visiting the building in Valencia. So, a double whammy both of which I have now corrected.

Again, I am very grateful to Ramón for pointing that out to me.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Welcome to sunny Spain

When it is sunny it is hot, when it is like this it's not. It may have been the driest and hottest summer on record for 30 years but autumn is turning out to be a bit rough.

These pictures were taken yesterday evening. 

IMG_2693 IMG_2694
Just look at that thunderhead behind Orihuela There was another forming in the distance behind Callosa
IMG_2699 IMG_2700
Thankfully the wind was carrying that inland Even still there were patches of blue to be seen

Thankfully, an hour or so later the skies cleared again. We will have to see what today brings.

A great day out for 5€

image The Association of Disabled La Pedrera and the Association of Progressive Women of Bigastro, in collaboration with the Council of Social welfare  have organised a trip to Valencia for the 6th of October.

- 06:30 hours; leave by coach from the Plaza Ramón y Cajal (door of Alvaro)
- 10:00 hours; visit the Palau de la Generalitat (the seat of the Valencian presidency and government)
- 12:00 hours; visit the Parque de la Albufera (the park of the lagoon)
- 14:00 hours; Lunch
- 16:00 hours; Return to Bigastro
- 18:00 hours; Arrive back in Bigastro

You can sign up for this trip by contacting any member of the associations.

A day in the company of some of the nicest people you will ever meet visiting parts of Valencia you wouldn’t normally get to see for just 5€. You don’t get better value than that.


image  image

Monday, September 21, 2009

They grow large in Bigastro

Do you remember the giant pumpkin that Jose Lopez grew?

Well Ramon Caballero sent me these photos.




That is a pan full of beans from just one string.

Something to celebrate

Forget the slightly controversial win by United at the Manchester derby game yesterday. If City had scored in that extra extra time it would have been a different matter. I hate bad losers. Hughes, your team lost - get over it! Everyone knows which is the better team in Manchester.


No the important sports news is that Spain became European basketball champions for the first time after beating Serbia 85-63 in the EuroBasket final in Katowice, Poland.

Spain now hold both the world and European titles.

And of course Alejandro Valverde won in the general classification of the Vuelta de España making that two grand tours to Spanish riders this year.

Achievements worth celebrating don't you think?

PS A message for that ref - it might be a good idea to check the batteries in your watch before the next game.

This weather business is becoming an obsession

You could see that somewhere nearby was going to get some awful weather yesterday afternoon. Those black clouds that appeared along with heavy thunder were destined to pour misery on some poor souls. 

It seems that it was Alicante that bore the brunt of it. The hail that fell over that part of the province left a layer up to 30cms thick in places, it caused chaos on the roads, flooding in tunnels and stopped four flights from landing at Alicante airport.

The area of Altet  seemed to suffer worst with hailstones  up to the size of a tennis ball which caused damage to cars and houses.

Remember we haven’t got to the gota fria yet.

Were you there?


The attempt at a Guinness world record for the number of ladies in bikinis on a beach caused a lot of controversy. Various groups described it as offensive to the image of women or chauvinistic.

I doubt whether the comments had any influence on the numbers turning up – the cloudy weather would have more likely been the reason for the failed attempt.

Even though only 200 ladies turned up,  that was 43 more than attended a similar event in the UK. However, the record still stands at 1,923 set in Russia July 2008.

Of course timing is everything. If the organisers had chosen a date in August when the area was thick with visitors and the weather was hot, they might have been more successful.

PS I must point out that the photograph came from the newspaper Infomacíon. I wouldn't want you to think that I would be so voyeuristic as to attend such an event!

More to come


Even those that didn’t enjoy sweltering in the heat of August must be getting fed up with all the cloud and rain we seem to be having at the moment.


It looks like this area and Girona are being singled out for a wetting.

I’m not even sure that I would bother changing the bedding this week.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Somewhere over the rainbow

IMG_2690 When you looked out at the grey sky this morning, you knew it was going to rain at some point. The sun, which did try to break through, managed on a few occasions to cast a weak shadow or two.

Now, at seven pm, you can hear the thunder in the distance and the wind has picked up. Look towards Orihuela and it is still relatively clear but then turn towards Torrevieja and the coast and it is as black as the hills.

At the end of that rainbow is a pot of gold. I reckon it is to the right of the reservoir if you want to get in your car and go look for it.


Click on the picture to see it larger.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The root of our problem

I notice that the pound has fallen even further today giving us an exchange rate of 1.10 Euros to the pound. Why, when the rate was increasing, has it started to fall again?

The answer is simple – as The Times reports:-

Britain is clocking up debt at a rate of £6,017 per second as the Government struggles to balance the books. With tax receipts plummeting because of the recession, state borrowing grew by £16.1 billion last month.

Net borrowing for the first five months of the financial year stood at £65.3 billion, compared with £26.1 billion at the same stage last year. Total borrowing soared past the £800 billion mark for the first time and total state debt as a proportion of national output reached 57.5 per cent.

Taking fright at the figures, foreign exchange dealers sent sterling diving to a four-month low against the euro. The value of the pound fell by more than 1 per cent against the dollar.

Analysts said that the Budget forecast by Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, that additional borrowings would be £175 billion this year was not pessimistic enough and predicted that borrowing would be between £15 billion and £50 billion above that forecast.

Around the world, governments have kept spending to prevent a global depression, sending state borrowing soaring to $35 trillion, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. The G20 leaders will discuss when to reverse stimulus policies of high public spending and ultra-low interest rates when they meet in Pittsburgh next week.

Measured as a proportion of national income, total UK government borrowing is not out of line with other rich nations, but it is growing much faster. The ONS figures exclude many public sector liabilities, including unfunded pension promises and some costs of the banking bailouts.

A Treasury spokesman said that the figures were in line with government forecasts. “They reflect the impact of the global financial crisis on tax receipts as well as the action we are taking to support the economy and invest to benefit from the recovery.”


When we first arrived at Villas Andrea, we didn't’ know what to expect in terms of our neighbours. The only thing we were sure of was that the majority would be from Britain.

In those early days, everyone got on fine with each other; friendship groups formed and all seemed to be hunky dory. You knew that would not last though and sooner or later some of the people would stop seeing eye to eye with each other. A few of the friendship groups have lasted; others have drifted apart. It is fair to say that, In some cases, the parting of the ways has been acrimonious.

Throughout all this, Pam and I have been resolute. We get on with people as long as they get on with us: we try to avoid taking sides and getting involved in any wranglings that might take place. We don’t like listening to gossip and refuse to pass on any that we hear.

Living on the edge of the development has afforded us the luxury of being able to avoid these sort of issues and our policy seems to have worked because, as far as we know, our relationships with the neighbours are cordial.

But we pay a price because Pam and I don’t always know what is going on. Generally this is not a problem but occasionally we come unstuck.

Wednesday, our youngest daughter Laura commented on her Facebook that it was nice to have a chippie supper once in a while. Fried fish and chips are not the healthiest choice of foods so we generally avoid them. After all, I have enough problems with cholesterol without adding more into my system.

However, having been cooped up in the house for several days because of the weather, we decided to indulge our desire for Darren’s delicious cod and chips at the Pedrera last night. I sent him an email to make a booking but of course Darren is very busy these days and probably didn’t have time to read it.

We felt sure that it would not be a problem and that Darren would be able to accommodate us so we set off up to the Pedrera for our treat. As we got nearer, we saw a group of people on their way up who were rather smartly dressed for a Friday night;then we were passed by one of neighbours in his car- he was in his suit and had a flower in his lapel. A few steps more, we spotted people outside the Albergue who were obviously there for a special occasion.

At that point Pam twigged what was going on. She had heard that one of the couples who live on the estate were getting married in September. Putting two and two together, we realised that the wedding party was being held up at the Albergue last night. I asked the security guard, who was eyeing us up, wondering why we were so casually dressed and he confirmed that what we suspected was true.

Pam and I quickly turned round and beat a hasty retreat back to the house for three good reasons; a) we would never gatecrash someone’s private function, b) we were inappropriately dressed and c) fish and chips would probably not have been on the menu last night.

Although we had a good laugh about our mistake, it just goes to show that we need to keep our ears to the ground more. Pam and I wish the happy couple all the best and hope that those who attended the party had a great time. We enjoyed the dinner Pam prepared and will have to find another date to indulge our taste for Darren’s fish.

Friday, September 18, 2009

One of the largest construction companies closes

In May 2008, San José Inversiones went into voluntary liquidation with debts of 134 million Euros and 800 creditors. In November of the same year, the smaller company, Hercusa followed them with 40 million Eurors of debt.

Now, one of the largest construction companies in the region, Torrevisa has also had to shut up shop.

Torrevisa, better know as Torrevisa-Masa Internacional, started out as a Torrevieja family business in the eighties. The company survived the economic crisis in the early nineties and went on to build 30,000 houses during the 25 years they were in business.

In 2003, the company expanded and starting building in Brazil and Croatia. Under the title Masa, they brought clients from all over Europe to the Vega Baja on inspection trips rivalling companies like Atlas International in the second home housing market.

The return of the sun

P1010380 P1010370
P1010385 Undeterred by the recent foul weather, people had flocked to the beaches in Torrevieja yesterday to take advantage of the return of the sun.

Some brave souls even ventured for a dip in the sea.

At La Mata, this couple found a quiet spot to enjoy the sun unhampered by the madding crowds.

I have to say, even though it was pleasant, there was a strong breeze that would have put me off from stripping to my swim shorts.

A magnificent building

When you think you know a place quite well, suddenly you stumble upon a building which you have never seen before. That is what happened yesterday in Torrevieja.  Pam and I strolled along the promenade to La Mata and then cut back along Calle Ramon Galud dropping down to the Plaza Oriente where we found this magnificent building – el Templo del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús

No wonder we haven’t seen it before because it was only on the 26th of June this year that  the new Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the car park at the Plaza de Oriente were inaugurated.

At the ceremony were the President of the Generalitat, Francisco Camps, and the bishop of the diocese of Orihuela-Alicante, Rafael Palmero Ramos.


You can see the scale of the building from the person, who happens to be Pamela, standing by the doorway.

P1010387 P1010390

In fact this new temple replaces the original chapel which was inaugurated on the Sunday, 13th August 1922. The chapel was originally built to house the growing clergy of Torrevieja especially during the summer months.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

An English pre-occupation

We thought we might have gotten over our pre-occupation for the weather when we boarded that plane to Spain with one way tickets nearly five years ago. After all , we were swopping wellington boots and overcoats for sandals and t-shirts.

Pam and I had never been to Spain during the winter so we had no idea what to expect. All the sales talk was about the days of sunshine and the summer temperatures. Somehow they seemed to miss out the bit about winter storms, rain and high winds.

Thankfully, common sense had prevailed so we hadn't abandoned the winter coats, scarves and fleeces at the airport as some had. Sensibly, we’d ordered central heating to be installed in our new house.

That first winter we were so grateful that we had made those choices because it was cold – damned cold. There was no snow or ice and the sun did shine a lot but we still needed those thick sweaters and waterproofs and we certainly needed that central heating.

Now, five years on we are well prepared for bad weather. Knowing what to expect, we pack the shorts and t-shirts away and bring the winter clothes to the front of the wardrobe.

This year though, winter seems to have started early. It has literally stuck us like a bolt of lightening.

Normally we would expect to be still basking in warm sunshine until at least the end of October. As the locals point out, no longer do we have four seasons – we have two – winter and summer. So that is it – forget the pool and the sunbeds until next June.

Just to put you in the picture with these photos from the excellent AEMET site.


Just look at that mass of cloud In the middle of the anticyclone. It is lying over the centre of Spain.

You can see it clearly on this infrared picture.



On this one you can see that the mass of cloud is bringing thunderstorms to the middle of the country.

But what of this area?


Hopefully a brighter day for us and a return to normality at least for the next couple of days.

Life in the river

Yesterday, people in Orihuela were shocked to see fish in the river Segura. Some thought they were salmon or even sea bass but no, these were common carp. Even still, it shows that there is life in the river.

The fish were spotted on the concrete apron at the Puente Nuevo. They had obviously been washed up by the swell of water following the heavy rain. Sadly most of them died as they would out of the water. Still it shows that the river is oxygenated  rather than being the smelly sewer that it was.  

Who knows, in years to come we may see fishermen with their rods in the city centre rather than folks scurrying along holding their noses to avoid the noxious smells.

No, no, please no

Ex pats living here will remember those dark days when the pound and the euro were equal in value. The exchange rate had plunged from about 1.5 Euros to the Pound downwards in just a few months.

The maths was simple, we were getting a third less Euros each time we exchanged money which in our case was every month. Imagine taking a pay cut of one third – that is what it was like. You can’t make simple adjustments to your budget to cope with that sort of loss. A bottle of wine less each week or turning the heating down one degree just doesn’t cover that sort of shortfall.

Then, slowly, the rate crept up and things looked brighter. People talked about 1.30 Euros to the pound and believed it would happen.

When the rate rose to 1.18, we thought there might just be light at the end of the tunnel. We started to believe that those optimists who had forecast a return to the days of plenty might be right.

But no it was not to be - our hopes have been dashed again; that light has gone out. Instead of creeping up from 1.18, the rate has started to drop again. We have watched helplessly as it has inched down by a centimo or so every other day until it now stands at 1.12 Euros to the pound.

It is poignant that the skies have turned dark grey over the last few days because that reflects our fiscal situation – gloomy.

Please don’t let it drop any further. It is not good for us and it certainly is not good for the Spanish economy.We can cope with the bad weather but having no money is a different matter.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I was wrong

Life has taught me that, when you are wrong, you should simply admit to it. There is no point in trying to make excuses for your mistakes because people will see through you. Of course, it goes without saying that, whilst I am regularly wrong, Pam rarely makes a mistake and when she does it is usually my fault. Perhaps I should get her to write this blog. There might be fewer mistakes but you would have to wait a little longer in the mornings to read the first postings.

Where is this all going? Well, yesterday, I said that the rain would be lighter than it had been over the last couple of days. I was clearly a mile off the mark. Although it wasn’t bouncing off the paving like it was on Sunday, the rain was persistent. Once it started, it just went on and on in that dreary way that we remembered the rain did in England. It was the sort of rain that doesn't necessarily soak you through in minutes but after awhile your bones start to ache with it.

Now today, I am biting my tongue, reluctant to make any predictions. All that I can say is that, following a grey start, it is sunny at the moment and the skies are back to blue. Just how long it will stay that way is anybodies guess. You can put the bed sheets in the washing machine but don’t turn it on just yet.

What a way to go

Keith Floyd, the flamboyant TV chef has died at the age of 65.

imageCigarette in one hand and glass of wine in the other, Floyd enjoyed a leisurely lunch with his long-time friend Celia Martin to celebrate her 65th birthday.

After settling the £120 bill at the restaurant in Lyme Regis, Dorset, Floyd - who had bowel cancer and whose health had deteriorated in recent years - said: 'I have not felt this well in ages.'

Hours later, as they settled down to watch a TV documentary about him, Floyd had a heart attack and died.

As it happens Floyd had ordered grouse but the restaurant served him partridge by mistake.I hope that wasn’t the cause of his demise.

The main thing I learnt from watching Keith Floyd was the necessity of that essential ingredient – a glass of red wine in hand - when you are cooking.

Thanks for that Keith - rest in peace.

Keeping the town safe

In a meeting with Encarna Llinares, the assistant representative of the Government; the mayor of Bigastro, Raul Valerio Medina said that we did not need a station of the Guardia Civil in the town. The station in nearby Jacarilla has 18 officers who serve the towns of Jacarilla, Bigastro, Benejúzar, the area of San Bartolomé and Las Asomadas already serves the community well. In 2003 there were only eight officers of the Guardia CIvil. The increase in police presence has lead to a decline in crime of 38% – a very creditable and comforting result.

With reference to Bigastro, Linares described the town as “calm”. Linares pointed out that the indices for delinquency for Bigastro are below the levels for the Vega Baja. That is how the mayor and the rest of us want it to stay!

One of the new measures that are being put in place is a police presence at schools when he children leave because that is the time when drug peddling to the young occurs. When I was and Assistant Headteacher at Anfield, we, the members of the Senior Management Team, would stand by the gates of the school every evening as the school closed monitoring what was going on. If necessary we would call for police backup but mostly we would resolve the problems ourselves.

Police told us that our presence at the gates curbed trafficking outside the school. The bad news though was that it simply moved the traffickers a little further afield.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It doesn’t hurt to be ambitious

When you are one of the smallest towns in the Bajo Segura you must look to others and envy them. More houses, means more people and more people equals more money to spend.

Jacarilla, is ambitious – it wants to grown in size to rival other neighbouring towns. The town council have therefore set out a plan for 1,226 houses to be built on 764,524 square metres of land. They have even given the development the name "Las Vegas" and have put the work out for tender. To make the contract attractive, the council only ask for a guarantee of 266,054 Euros, a tiny franction of the estimated 13 million Euros the project will cost to complete.

We have seen PGOUs that include commercial centres, hotel complexes etc from several towns in the area. Possibly the most ambitious are the plans for development in San Miguel. Jacarilla stipulates that, whoever takes this contract, completes the work in a maximum of four years. In the boom years that would have been normal but now – I am not so sure. There are apparently signs that the market is beginning to pick up but there still a lot of completed and part completed houses on the market. It could well take more than four years before there is a need for over 1,200 more new houses in this area – a quick visit to Sector D6 in Bigastro is clear evidence of this.

We were lucky

Following heavy rain on Sunday, we were not looking forward to another dose of the wet stuff yesterday. Fortunately, when the rain did arrive in the afternoon, it didn't last long as was nowhere near as heavy as the day before. Even still, some parts of the province, where clearing up had started yesterday morning, could have done without even a shower.

The problem is that the drainage systems in this part of Spain are largely inadequate. In England, most problems with flooding occur on the flood plains of rivers. Rivers rise and flood the surrounding area. In this area of Spain, I don’t suppose the rivers ever flood their banks so that isn’t the issue. However, when the rain is heavy it runs down calles and over parched land which can’t soak it up and has nowhere to go.

Very few houses have guttering and those that do have downpipes that simply empty onto the paving or road. There seems to be no system of pipework underground for surface water. When you look around, very few roads have drains to take the water away either. At best, a storm drain at the side of the road just takes the water elsewhere where it is meant to soak away. On high ground there is no problem, on low lying land and in the centre of towns, this is a major headache.

In Bigastro there are collectors across the road down to the town which take the water to the huerta. Unfortunately, the first collector on the way down from Villas Andrea is at the junction at the bottom of the estate. When it rains, water from la Pedrera runs down the storm drain alongside Calle Le Vigan until it reaches the park where the office used to be. There it just spills out onto the road joining the water coming down Calle Cañada de Andrea to create a river of muddy water which doesn’t stop until the junction with the road to the reservoir.

We are fortunate in that river of water which runs down Le VIgan bypasses our road. Because we are above the retaining wall, our terracing drains down two pipes onto the road below. So, our plot drains quickly and efficiently even with the heaviest of rain. Our only problem is that, when it rains heavily, water seeps into the box that holds the pool pump and filter.


The sky this morning is blue with the odd small cloud. Looking at the satellite image above, it looks as though the worst of the rain is now over. AEMET still predict a 75% chance of rain today reducing to 55% for the next couple of days. The chances are it will be less than a few millimetres though on either day.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Picture the problem


You can see the heavy cloud that caused us problems yesterday on this satellite picture from 3pm


That blob of cloud passing over the Costa del Sol is heading our way and picking up moisture as it passes over the Med. region.


and just look at all that lightening over the Balearic Islands. They are getting it a lot worse than we were. The storm will then move on to Italy and flood stricken Greece.

That was not the gota fria

It rained yesterday, boy did it rain. The worst hit places were Alicante city, the surrounding area, Orihuela and Elda.

The cause, a cold storm coming from England meeting the warm air over the Mediterranean.

The two hour downpour caused chaos throughout Alicante province; roads were closed, garages were flooded, underpasses were impassable, electricity was cut and the trains stopped running. To give you some idea of how much rain fell; Agost registered sixty six litres per square metre in just one hour and even saw hail. Orihuela though was worst hit with a registered 72 litres of water per square metre and some sources even made that 90. I have at least two inches more water in my pool today thanks to the downpour.

The worst affected parts of Orihuela were the Plaza de Capuchinos, the Ociopía zone and the Avenida de la Vega. Commercial premises in the Avenida de la Vega and Calle Extremadura were badly flooded including two stationery shops, a pet shop and a cafeteria. The residents waited two hours before the emergency services arrived. In the meantime they improvised a pump to clear the roads and removed cars that had been immobilised by the water. Today they will be counting the cost as they clear the mud and damaged stock from their premises.

We had several small power cuts but should count ourselves lucky. Thousands experienced extensive blackouts in Alicante, Sant Joan, Benidorm, Elda and Torrevieja.


The further bad news is that the rain isn’t over yet. The area is on yellow alert for today and green for tomorrow. It is probably best to leave washing the sheets until at least Thursday.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I told you

I wasn't wrong when I said it was going to rain today. Thunder, lightening and torrential rain. It is bouncing off the paving round the house. The wind has blown a couple of pots over including the new one which we bought for the weeping fig.

Hopefully it is clean rain, even still the road down to Bigastro will be a river of yellow mud.

We can expect rain

Pam had plans for us to go down to Lo Pagan and walk along the beach this afternoon. We’d enjoyed our walk along the beach at La Mata last Sunday with our friends Hugh and Angela and loved getting our feet in the sea.


However, when we watched the weather report on Meteo last night, the forecast is for rain today. In fact the forecast is for rain to continue until Wednesday. So we will have to pack away the sun bed cushions and the sun umbrella and put the cover back on the pool and then see. I doubt if we will be going anywhere near a beach!

Much of the Mediterranean seems to have been battered by heavy rain in the last week, first Turkey and then Greece. The flooding in Istanbul has been devastating.


You can see from the satellite image at 8am this morning that we are going to be suffering from a different weather system to those two countries. This anticyclone is coming from the Atlantic and it is that dense area of cloud passing over Gibraltar that will bring us the rain.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Cash King – what an apt name

There is little point in stealing goods unless you have a market for them. That is where Cash King in Torrevieja came in.

The pawn shop on Calle Clemeted Gosalvez , was apparently a fence for items of stolen jewellery which instead of being kept were sent to Germany to be melted down.

When police raided the premises they seized 30 luxury designer watches and hundreds of bracelets, rings, necklaces, earrings, and pendants which were all stolen and are believed to be worth 170,000 euros. Officers also confiscated nearly 8,000 euros in cash.

Most of the jewellery was taken in robberies across the Murcia region, Alicante province and Cataluña.

The police investigation started a few weeks ago when officers discovered the shop had no opening licence. The owners didn’t kept a book to register the jewellery or check for legal origin; nor did they hold on to the jewellery for the compulsory fixed period.

The police say that the owners were 'very keen to get rich' and even advertised their 'instant cash' service on the Internet.

Officers are looking for the owners of the jewellery and residents who have had theirs stolen are asked to call the National Police in Alicante or dial 112 with details.

Now we have to pay

Someone has to pay for the debt-rising recession-fighting measures that the Government have introduced. Special measures such as subsidies for purchasing new cars and extra benefits for long-term unemployed workers have driven the state coffers into serious debt.

During the first parliamentary session of the new term, the President of the Government,  José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, has announced the government plans to cover the deficit with an extra 16.3 billion Euros of taxes – an average of 398 Euros per taxpayer.

The increase in IVA (the Spanish equivalent to VAT), which has been applied in Germany seems to be the favoured choice. Each percentage point increase (currently at 16%) will raise five billion Euros.

OF course, increasing indirect tax in this way has been found to be counter productive. Consumers, faced with increased costs, tend to buy less which would then slow down the economy. In fact prices of certain goods in Spain are already far higher than in other countries which is why, when I want a new camera for example, I shop online in the UK to save money. Increasing IVA will widen this gap further.

Gas comes to town

One of the things that the salesman was keen to point out when we bought our house was that we would have piped gas to the house. It wasn’t something that surprised us since most homes in Britain, certainly the ones we lived in, had mains gas. How else were you going to fire a central heating boiler?

In fact, a gas supply is not common here in Spain and neither therefore is central heating. Most people rely upon hot and cold air conditioning units to provide heating around the house. We like our radiators, it is what we are used to.

At Villas Andrea there are two large BP tanks gas situated at the other side of the estate which supply gas to all the houses. The central heating boiler therefore runs off propane.

That situation is about to change for some parts of the Vega Baja as Natural gas (Cegás) plan to  invest  almost three million Euros creating an  infrastructure of 32.5 kilometres of pipeline which will provide gas to Guardamar del Segura, Torrevieja, Orihuela Costa, and Pilar de la Horadada.

Having gas will be great for any future buildings that are constructed but perhaps difficult for those that are existing.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Nothing to report

I have been asked several times whether I ever have difficulty finding something to write about for this blog. The answer is yes and today is one of those days.

I have scoured the local press along with the newspapers in England and can find little that interests  me sufficiently to publish on this blog. OK, I found the story about the 15 members of the Latin Kings gang that have been arrested in Orihuela and  the World Championship Wind Surfing that is due to start on he beach at Santa Pola on Monday but not much else.

So, as my father always advised me, if you have nowt to say then say nowt.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The day will come

Just what do you do when you have produced the best selling range of MP3 players? Like with cars,TVs, cameras etc etc you just add in more features in order to keep sales going.

I was mulling over this fact with Andrew who came to stay with his parents last week. We were talking about mobile phones which at one time were just for making calls to people – how quaint. Now, they come with a camera which also records movies, a diary, an MP3 player, a voice recorder, games, a radio, an Internet connection, a calculator and a GPS satnav. Please forgive me if I have missed out some of the features on your Nokeo DXV 3S Mk2.

Apple jumped on this feature rich bandwagon with their MP3 players. My original iPod was just an MP3 player – a dammed good one but just that – it played music full stop. My iPod touch does a whole lot more including surf the Internet via a wireless connection.

Of course, adding more features makes the device grow larger and larger (and more expensive). For one thing, you need a larger colour screen to watch all those movies that your iPod now holds. My iPod touch might be a lot slimmer than my 4G iPod but it is longer and wider.

To return to ultra portability you have to look to the iPod shuffle or the more versatile iPod Nano. Sacrifice the features and you get something you can slip easily into the pocket. A device that doesn’t make you look like some geek as you travel to work on the train.

Not content with having produced something utterly discreet, Apple, have now had to go one step further. They knew that, as good as the Nano was, it would not continue to sell well unless they gave it a little boost. So now the company have added a video camera, an FM radio built-in, a voice recorder and a pedometer to the Nano. Joggers can choose between their collection of tunes or be irritated by Terry Wogan or his replacement - Chris Evans; they can stop to make a video of the ducks in the pond and record how many pavement thumping steps they have taken.

Apple are clearly determined to stay ahead of the market. I reckon pretty soon they will produce a gizmo that covers all the bases and more. When that age of utopia arrives, we will have one device that does everything we want in our busy lives except make coffee. We won’t need to carry a pocketful of gadgets anymore, there will be just the one - the Apple Ultimo. Then our only problem will be that the manual will rival Tolstoy's "War and Peace".

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

We love you - yeh, yeh, yeh

Pam and I, like many of our generation, were brought up on the Beatles. Right from the first album to the last we loved them. Their music and words were meaningful to us and represented our feelings at the time.

Neither of us actually saw the “fab four” live even though Pam lived just over the water from the ‘Pool. I personally don’t regret that because my brother and I went to see the Stones live in the early 60s and didn’t enjoy the concert as much as we had hoped. All you could hear was girls screaming from the moment Mick and the boys came on stage until well after they left. Beatles concerts were apparently much the same. Yorkshiremen don’t pay good money just to hear girls screaming.

Pam had some of the Beatles’ albums, I had others but together we didn’t own the complete set. As students we simply could not afford every record the lads produced.

Jemma has our old LPs stored at her house in Wolverhampton. Most of the Beatles’ ones are scratchy and worn from being overplayed. We did consider buying some of our favourite Beatles’ albums on CD to replace them but in comparison with the original vinyl they sounded flat and lifeless. What we did buy though was the Beatles Live at the BBC compilation - live performances at their very best. However, there are many of our favourite songs missing from that set.

Now though, it is possible for us to relive those heady days of the sixties because the whole Beatles’ back catalogue has been skilfully re-mastered in both mono and stereo (remember the early albums were recorded in mono). By all accounts the painstaking work has brought the collection of songs back to life.

The Beatles in Mono (£199.99) and The Beatles Box Set – Remastered in Stereo (£169.99) are released today. I just wish I was indulgent enough to afford at least one of them - probably the mono set.

An unfair contest

The Council were looking for personnel to work in the town's schools including the infant school Bigastrin. An advert was placed on the town web site but Aurelio Murcia for the opposition party  claims that insufficient notice was given to allow people to apply especially since the advert appeared during the period of the fiesta.  Murcia accuses the ruling Socialist party of making it impossible for anyone other than the existing employees to apply for the 30 jobs that were advertised.

It seems that, out of the 80 people who applied, 29 of the 30 successful candidates had already held posts in the schools.

Far be it for me to comment on this but in my experience when people apply for their own jobs, unless there are good reasons not to choose them, they often get re-appointed. Hiring someone whose track record you know is a lot less risky than taking on someone new.

Make the best of it


Our visitors enjoyed some good weather over the last week. Even when it was cloudy first thing, the clouds soon dispersed to give bright blue skies and sunshine.

The next seven days looks to start out much the same. A pleasant wind to keep things comfortable and little chance of rain.

Towards the end of this period though, there could be the chance of a shower or two with much lighter winds.

It is definitely time to think about putting the cover back on the pool. The water yesterday was down to 28 which sounds warm but for Pam it feels cold after a period where it stayed between 30 and 32 degrees Celsius. 

Socially aware


Bigastro is a socially aware town: the disabled, the elderly and the infirm are all cared for by a community that hasn’t forgotten those who are worse off.

Pam's father suffers from dementia so we know how stressful this can be both for the person and for their relatives.

The Association of Relatives of Patients of Alzheimer "Acuérdate de mí" in Bigastro, in collaboration with the Council of Social welfare has organised a series of activities to celebrate Alzheimer Day.

- There will be information available at the Thursday market on the 3rd, 10th and 17th of this month.

- A Gymkhana de Games for children has been organised for Wednesday 16th of September at 6pm in the Parque Municipal Huerto del Cura. In addition there will be mask making and a drawing competition on the theme, “How I see grandfathers”

- finally a Rastro Benéfico is planned for Sunday 20th of September from 10:00am in the Parque Municipal Huerto del Cura.

As you can see, the Association is not using this occasion to try and raise money, just awareness.

For those interested in helping people suffering from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia there is a course organised as follows:-

The course runs on the 1st, 15th, 22nd and 29th of October from 6 to 8opm in the Sala Polivalente at the Auditorio Municipal "Francisco Grau"and will be delivered by professionals from the Association:
- Mª José Moreno: Physiotherapist
- Carolina Garci'a: Occupational therapist
- Raquel Bañón: Social worker
- Marina Baró: Psychologist

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

That would make a bloody big pie


Jose Lopez has grown this giant 30 kilogram pumpkin on his allotment on the Vereda de la Fondistera, Bigastro,

Jose has been unemployed for a few months now and decided to take up gardening to occupy his time. He says this is the first time he has grown pumpkins and was surprised to see this one grow so large.

What will they wake up to now?

I have to say at the outset, I have never been a fan of Terry Wogan. I always found him extremely irritating. His Irish accent and his style of humour never appealed to me at all. So his departure from Radio 2 will not affect me because, even if we could recieve the station here in Spain, I wouldn't listen to it.

When I was in the UK, I never listened to Radio 2 because I grew up with Radio 1 and the pirate radio station -Radio Caroline which I loved.

Even though I am not a fan, I do have to concede that Wogan was immensely popular. He hosted the prime time breakfast programme for as long as anyone can remember and has amassed the largest audience the station enjoys. Over 8 million people tune in each morning to listen to the 71 year old. That is some audience.

The new presenter will apparently be Chris Evans who famously flashed his naked ginger body on TGFI and was sacked from Virgin Radio for being too controversial. No doubt he has matured since then but nether the less, I know many of Wogan's fans will hate him among them our friends Glenys and Peter.

Third time lucky

Yesterday, we took our visitors to Murcia on the train. They could hardly believe the fare - 2.10€ return for a twenty minute journey each way. Even for five people, it is not worth struggling to find somewhere to park, paying for parking and the diesel - let the train take the strain as British Rail used to say.

We set off reasonably early to give ourselves time before everything closes for lunchtime siesta. First stop was a coffee in the plaza where the cathedral is situated. Then of course we went inside the cathedral for a look around.

Our next stop was to be the Plaza de Toros. Last time Pam and I went we arrived there too late. Yesterday we were on time but were turned away because they were working inside preparing for one of the corridas which are part of the September Feria.

A saunter round the shops brought us to the plaza where we intended to eat. Unfortunately, the restaurant we had eaten in on both our previous trips was closed for vacations, so we looked at the other restaurants that line the Plaza.

The one we chose offered a "menu del dia" for 8€. As you know, I am sceptical about the quality of cheap lunches. This one proved me wrong. There was a varied selection, the food was good and the portions generous.

Well refreshed, we sauntered back down to the river for a walk along the banks. Murcia has some very interesting bridges including this footbridge which is cantilevered on one side – very clever piece of engineering.

So we had a pleasant day in this fascinating city and hopefully gave our visitors some good memories of their holiday in this area of Spain.

They fly back today so will spend their last hours here packing and chilling by the pool.

As for Pam and I, we are determined to re-visit Murcia at some time in the future in the hope that we will finally make it into the bullring.