Monday, November 30, 2009

The sun and the moon


Yesterday, Pam and I were mulling over the hours of daylight that we enjoy here in Spain in comparison with those in the UK.

We still remember getting up in the dark to go to work and then going back home when it was dark again. It was one of the main reasons we hated winters. At least when the country went back to daylight saving we didn't arrive at school in the dark – those days were awful.

Even in the winter, there are sufficient hours of daylight (8:15 until 6pm) in the south of Spain to keep us happy.

Do you remember the dodgems?


The Council of Social welfare organised a fun day for the Disabled members of the Association of the Stone Quarry when they enjoyed a session on the dodgem cars (coches de choque ) in the Municipal Park "Huerto del Cura".

Whilst some got into the cars straight away, others had to think twice but in the end they all had a lot of fun bumping into and avoiding each other.

The dodgems have been in the park all month but will now be cleared away ready for the marquee.

The wind is back


It looks like, following yesterday’s dreary drizzle, the wind will be the predominant feature for this week. For today, the province is on yellow alert for wind.

It will also be a lot colder this week with temperatures more normal for the time of year. Time to get the winter coats, scarves, the furry boots* and gloves out.

Spare a thought for people back in England where the temperatures are about 12 degrees lower and the people in Galicia which has been battered by heavy rain and looks to be getting a further battering today. 

* Only for the ladies.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The picudo rojo

Orihuela city council have conceded that it is impossible to prevent the arrival of the Egyptian beetle that is devastating palm trees. It is very difficult to even control the spread of the insect which has attacked the grove of palms along the river towards Jacarilla.

Here in Bigastro you can see fluorescent spots painted on trees which are presumably some sort of code to show that they have either been infected or have been treated.

The only good news is that the beetle is not affecting the date palms, it seems to prefer Phoenix and Washington varieties. However these are the ones that are emblematic to the area and are widely planted in parks and gardens throughout the region.

Normally, cold weather would stop the activity of the beetles allowing time for fumigation to take place in Spring. However, the mild weather that we are experiencing means that the beetles are still very active. The treatment that is being employed in Orihuela is to inject poison through a tube into the heart of the trees and let it soak in.

Let us hope that they are successful. The parks in Orihuela would look bare without their palm trees.

Life on the coast


I have no doubt there are plenty of well meaning, respectable people living on the coastal strip. However, it seems that amongst them, there are some whose morals don’t coincide with ours. For these individuals, anything goes even if it oversteps the bounds of common decency by a mile or more.

On Friday 15th, the ninth edition of the Motero Lunch organised by Moto Club 12+1 took place at Pilar de la Horadada. It is apparently a traditional event during autumn organised with the blessing of the council as part of the local fiesta to honour the Virgen del Pilar. There was even an official poster advertising it.

The two girls that had been booked were apparently performing their routines throughout the morning. This was to be the culminating act where they invited members of the audience to participate with them in what turned out to be a highly explicit sex show lasting 25 minutes.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t disapprove of striptease per se. This, however was obviously something quite different as you can see from the photographs. If it had taken place in a private club attended only by adults, it would have been OK; what people get up to in private is up to them. However, at this biker’s lunch, children as young as 4 and 5 were allowed in to watch the sordid spectacle free of charge and imagenobody in the 3,000 strong audience seemed to care that they were sat right at the front. I imagine that was  probably because most of the people there were fuelled up on beer. 

If you remember, Torrevieja hosted a drag queen night as part of their carnival in February. That might have raised a few eyebrows at the time but surely comes nowhere near this latest event. 

If this is what they get up to in places like Pilar de la Horadada, I’m glad we live in civilised Bigastro where fiestas are something that people of all ages can enjoy without being mortally offended. 

How the man in the photograph can look anyone respectable in the eye ever again, especially the relatives of those young children, is beyond me.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Trying to make more sense of this

My neighbour tells me that he has now phoned the Iberdrola helpline (9012020) to enquire about the information he was given by his friends on the coast. The person he spoke to has promises to send him information by post. We will have to wait and see what arrives but in the meantime I have done a bit more searching about and found this:-

Iberdrola explain all this in their leaflet which you can read online in English.

From July, low-voltage electricity consumers whose contracted power did not exceed 10kw saw the all-inclusive electricity rates they were accustomed to paying replaced with the Last Resort Rates (LRR)*, set by the government. The Last Resort Supply (LRS)** is the model for the electricity sector, imposed by the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Trade in accordance with EU regulations, in force in Spain under the Royal Decree 485/2009, dated 3rd April 2009.

Whilst consumers were not obliged to make any changes themselves and would not be affected by the new arrangements, they did have the option to choose their retailer from the list offered on the reverse of the letter.
The system essentially rewards low-voltage electricity consumers, with contracted power up to 10kw, who are entitled to cheaper rates, whilst penalizing those who use excessive volumes above this level.

The majority of home owners and some small businesses fall into the LRR category, and provided that they did not contract for an alternative retailer from the ‘deregulated’ or independent market, they were automatically supplied and charged by another division of the IBERDROLA Group , ‘Iberdrola Comercialización de Último Recurso’.

Iberdrola made this transfer will be made without charge, and the price will be fixed by the Government, at current rates.

Contrary to rumours, only consumers with contracted power of over 10 kw, who were being supplied by Iberdrola Distribución Eléctrica, SAU were strongly advised to opt for a deregulated market retailer, otherwise their contract was automatically be taken over by Iberdrola Comercialización de Último Recurso, with prices becoming progressively higher to a rate determined by the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Trade, which could be as much as by 5% every month until the end of the year.

Effectively, these are the instructions that Iberdrola offered:
Consumers with contracted power of up to 10 kW could:
1. Continue as they are now and their contract will be automatically transferred from Iberdrola Distribución Eléctrica, SAU to Iberdrola Comercialización de Último Recurso, SAU, which will apply the LRR established by the government, at the current rate and without any break in supply.
2. Select an alternative last resort retailer, which will also apply the Government regulated LRR.
3. Choose an independent retailer from the deregulated market, as listed on the reverse of the letter from Iberdrola.
Consumers with contracted power above 10 kW could:
1. Select a retailer from the deregulated market.
2. Remain as they are and allow the contract to be transferred from Iberdrola Distribución Eléctrica, SAU to Iberdrola Comercialización de Último Recurso, SAU, but be mindful of the higher charges.

The Social Rate (as described by Iberdrola)

Provisionally, until the government establishes the announced per capita income indicator (based on social, consumption and purchasing power parameters), the Social Allowance will be open to consumers with contracted power under 3 kW, retired persons collecting a minimum pension, persons over 60, families with more than four children, and families with all members unemployed.

The Subsidised Rate for Underprivileged Homes

Article 2 of Royal Decree-Law 6/2009 establishes the creation of a subsidised rate for underprivileged homes that will benefit individual electricity consumers in their homes. These individuals must be subscribed to the last resort rate and comply with a series of social, consumer and purchase capacity characteristics. To this end, a threshold will be established in reference to a per capita family income indicator that will require official confirmation of income established by the corresponding regulations.

Temporarily, while the Government establishes the per capita income indicator – and depending on social, consumer and purchase capacity indicators – those individuals with a contract for power under 3 kW, retired persons over 60 years old with a minimum pension, large families and families with all members unemployed will be eligible to subscribe to the Subsidised Rate for Underprivileged Homes.

So where do we stand?

Because of our occupational pensions, I don’t think that Pam and I would qualify for the Social Rate.The contracted rate for our house is 5.75kW, I expect others on the estate are contracted for the same with the possible exception of those who have full air conditioning installed by the builder who I think have a contract for 13kW. Because we have done nothing, we will have been moved on to the Last Resort Rate and are now billed by Iberdrola Comercialización de Último Recurso.

From all that I have read, it seems that there would be no advantage for us moving to another supplier. As low consumers, we already have the most advantageous rates set by the government. From what I understand, If we did move, the new company (unless they were deregulated) would place us on the same Last Resort Rate. However, it is different for people with a contract for over 10kW who are strongly advised to change to the deregulated market otherwise they will face increases of 5% every month. The potential savings for those users are in the order of 15%.

Of course, to make matters more confusing Iberdrola offer a service called fixed fee which is similar to schemes in the UK which allow you to spread your bills out and pay the same amount each month. They also offer to take over the supply of your gas and offer a 15% discount for the first year. Sadly they are talking about natural gas, not the propane that we are contracted to .

*Tarifas de Último Recurso (TUR)

** Suministro de Último Recurso (SUR),

Friday, November 27, 2009

It seems I was right

I can't say why some people on the coast have been able to get the discount offered by Iberdrola. What I can tell you, with a reasonable degree of certainty, is that it doesn't apply Pam and I.

The Social Rate was best described to me by the lady at Age Concern as being similar in principal to the Winter Fuel Allowance that some pensioners here receive from the UK government. Apparently it only applies to those in special circumstances and is more than a one off payment.

For the benefit of my Spanish readers, British pensioners here who lived in England on a particular date in September receive an allowance of £200 (£400 if they are over 80 years of age). The allowance is still paid to them even though they now live abroad.

However, for some inexplicable reason, those of us who moved to Spain before we reached pensionable age ar not eligible for the allowance. To get it, we would have to go back and live in England for that one week in September.

I’ve been searching

One of our neighbours told Pam that she knew of people living on Orihuela Costa who had successfully applied for the discount offered to pensioners by Iberdrola (the electricity company).

Pam and I recall there was a letter about this included with our last electricity bill but thought from reading it with our limited knowledge of Spanish that this discount only applied to Spanish pensioners.

If what our neighbour says is correct, then we  British pensioners are also eligible for the same discount. The only problem is that we threw the letter away and I can’t find any references to this discount on the Internet. There is nothing about it on Iberdrola’s website and I can’t find mention of it in any of the local English papers online. Strangely, there seems to be nothing about the scheme in any of the local online message boards either.

So if anyone could shed some light on this issue, I’m sure everyone reading this blog would be grateful. 

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Keeping us dry

As you will have gathered from this blog, we get very little rain here in Biagstro. When the rain comes though it buckets down. To use Peter’s phrase, ¡Lueve a cántaros!.

IMG_0374To keep us from being inundated, this storm drain runs alongside the road from the Pedrera carrying water down to the road at the bottom of the estate.

It looks pretty deep and it is. When we first saw it, we thought is might be a bit “over the top” but having seen it full to the brim, we realise that it is just about adequate to cope with a Gota Fria.

Another plug for Andy

It seems that Andy Cole will not be allowed to escape easily from Villas Andrea. You recall he came and replaced the pipe that goes from the skimmer on our pool to the pump. Well, he has now been back to re-render the staircase wall at the front of our house with Gote Gran and was then moving on to replace the bath in one of our neighbours' houses with a shower.

There are only two reasons why Andy gets so much work up here; a) his prices are reasonable and b) the quality of his work is very good. In addition to which, Pam told Andy that he was the best clearer upper that we have ever had. 

To repeat my earlier advice, if you have any sort of building work to be done, it is well worth giving Andy a call on 619 573 566 or email him on If you want to speak to him personally, you’ll probably find his white van parked somewhere on the estate doing another job for one of our neighbours.

By the way, Andy told me he had a further two cases of leaking pipes in pools to deal with. So those of you who use tablets to chlorinate your pools beware. It might only be a matter of time before you have to call for Andy’s services.

An unfortunate name

The saxophone quartet, Fukyo which comprises bigastrenses, a young man from Los Montesinos and another from Valencia won second prize in the biennial Concurso Permanente de Jóvenes Intérpretes de España held in Bibao.

As a result the group will now tour Spain and abroad with a network that organises over 200 concerts each year.   

I hope they don’t plan to tour England with a name like that. For the benefit of my Spanish readers the name in English sounds like the vulgar expressions, “cójale” or “jódete”.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Semi seco


Eduardo, our Spanish teacher for last year, explained that the area around Bigastro is semi arid. In order to get crops to grow, the local farmers employ complex watering systems which is what they have established on the huerta, the other side of town.

On this side of the town though, the land is as it would be. Without irrigation, most plants and certainly vegetable crops would have no chance of survival.

However, some species of fauna and flora are tenacious and manage to flourish in these impossible conditions; including the Mediterranean pines which have been planted here.

Some people would describe this land as useless scrub; you can see evidence of their abuse of it in the litter that gets strewn about. To me though, it is an area of natural beauty just waiting to be photographed.

IMG_0377 Where plots of land have been cleared for building and then left, it hasn’t taken long for the plants to re-colonise and claim back the ground they have lost. Following the re-introduction of the plants, you get insects and animals that feed on them. Then along come the snakes and the fbirds and pretty soon you have an area teaming with wildlife.

The area in the top photograph is where Idearco planned to build an aparthotel. I’m glad that hasn’t happened because if it had, this natural beauty would have been lost forever. I hope that whatever they do decide to do with the land is sympathetic and retains the rural splendour for generations that follow to appreciate. In my opinion, retaining this sort of wilderness close to the town exemplifies the principles of Città Slow.

El fin de semana


SATURDAY, 28th at 8PM

Cinema: First showing of “EVA” by Vanessa Lopez

This young director and scriptwriter from Alicante has chosen Bigastro to release her short film “Eva” featuring the, bigastrense, Yessica Larrosa, accompanied by actors Xoel Fernández and Mario Morote.

Alberto visits his fiancée, Eva, in a psychiatric ward after her second attempt to commit suicide. There, thanks to David, a young psychiatrist, he discovers that he no longer knows the woman with whom he has shared his life and that things not always as he sees them.


SUNDAY, 29th 6:30pm
Music Recital

A recital of music by the members of the Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro featuring Adrián Albadalejo (euphonium), Pilar Sáez (flute) and Raquel Díaz(flute) accompanied on the piano by Ramón Casanueva.

These three young and highly talented musicians will interpret works by different composers in various musical styles.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A tree for Christmas

imagePupils from the primary school, Molivent were decorating the Christmas tree which stands in the Plaza de la Constitución in Guardamar de la Segura.

Last year’s tree was made with thousands of white bags, each containing a message of hope for the forthcoming year.

This year’s tree is a guardamarenca pine.  At the moment it looks a bit bald but I’m sure it will look fine what it has got some lights and a few baubles on it.

Get the plimsolls out


The Sports Council in Bigastro has kindly organised cross country races to take place on the 13th December.

Besides providing us with a healthy activity to take part in, they also want to pay tribute to D. Manuel Belmonte, a bigastrense and a great enthusiast of both sport and education in the municipality.

Races will start at 10:30 am on the Avenue Apatel.

image Looking at those categories it seems that most of us would compete in Veterans Category B by a fair margin.

If you fancy taking part, the cost is just 5€. You can enter by filling in this online form. Or you can turn up half an hour before the races start and pay on the day.

Damn, from the calendar, I see Pam and I will be otherwise engaged on that day.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Striking a balance

image The Council of Education and the AMPA (parent’s association) at San José de Calasanz school are organising extra-curricular activities along the theme “Bigastro, Città Slow” (Bigastro, Slow City).

The pupils who take part will cover topics such as Popular Culture, the Environment, as well as playing outdoor games.

The sessions which will last one and a half hours per week are scheduled for either Tuesdays or Wednesdays between 4:30pm and 6 o’clock.

The price for the partners of the AMPA is 5€ per month and for non partners 7€. Classes begin on 1st December.

It is good that children are getting involved in learning about the Città Slow project which is regarded as being important to the town. Hopefully they will appreciate the need to strike a balance between the pressures of modern life and maintaining the traditions of the past.

Pam recently read an article in one of the English papers which said that current educational policy in England is to replace subject based learning in primary schools with broad topics or themes. It seems that a lot of tradition is to be wiped off the curriculum to be replaced by information about such things as Googling, blogging and social networks. As important and relevant those topics might be, we feel that it is sad that children will miss out on a lot of traditional learning.

A smile on his face

I bet “Ron the wipe”, so named because he cleans windows, has a smile across his face that will take some time to clear.

Ron is a Tottenham Hotspur fan and takes a lot of ribbing from his friends as a result. Now it is his turn to give back as good as he gets because the Spurs won their match on Sunday against Wigan Athletic by an almost unbelievable 9 goals to 1.

It doesn’t rate as a record though because in the Scottish Cup match between Arbroath & Bon Accord on 12 September 1885. Arbroath won 36-0 which is still the current world record for the largest margin victory in any football match.

Nine one though – try and beat that Arsenal!

Good weather continues

imageIt  looks like we will have a really nice start to the week with plenty of sunshine. A little cloudier after midweek but still very pleasant.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

When you hear the swoosh

The swooshing noise as a rocket sets off is a warning of a loud bang to come. Last night, we were sat watching television and didn’t hear the swoosh. We did hear the bang though and felt it as well. It sounded like war had just broken out.

The fireworks were obviously close, real close. When Pam went out to investigate, she saw someone setting them off on the land at the top of our road. The fireworks were exploding directly over our house as evidenced this morning by the rocket sticks Pam found in the garden.

A plea:- If you are going to set off fireworks, can you please go a little further away. Our ageing hearts do not appreciate the shock of loud unexpected noises.

Running out of superlatives


I am rapidly running out of superlatives to describe performances by the Banda de la Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro.

They seem to get better and better each time we listen to them. Last night’s performance was exceptional.

Perhaps because we were familiar with the music, we enjoyed the Phantom of the Opera piece best. That is being picky though because in truth each piece was a delight.

One of the highlights we should mention was the performance by the young soloist María Díaz Esquiva. If you closed your eyes and just listened to her, you would not believe that it was an eleven year old child playing.

In her own words, Maria explains that she was brought up in a house with a musical atmosphere. She remembers listening to the song “Maria” from West Side Story many times. Possibly the song was the inspiration for her name.

Maria started learning music in the local school which is part of the Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro. She wanted to play the big drum like her grandfather or play the clarinet but was advised to play the violoncello. When she was six years old, Maria first took up the clarinet and was instructed by her her first professor, D. José Vicente Diaz Alcaina.Maria had a good ear for music and learnt her first pieces on the clarinet well.

A few months after she’d started on the clarinet, Maria took piano lessons with Dña. Victoria Sáez at the Coservatorio Professional de Música de Almoradí.

In 2008, Maria joined the Banda de la Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro playing the clarinet - she was the youngest member of the band.

Maria won first prize in the Contest for Santa Cecilia in 2007 and was selected to represent the music school in the local contest for interpretation 2009. Maria says that her best prize is being able to play in the clarinet group with her friends in the band.

It continues to amaze us that a small town like Bigastro produces such prodigious talent. We offer our thanks to Maria and to all the members of the band for such a wonderful evening.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Describing the weather

Since the weather seems to be the main topic of concern both here in Spain and in Britain, it is appropriate that Peter from StreetwiseSpanish.Com should send out this tip.

Vale, I'm sure you're familiar with phrases such as hace calor, hace frío, hace buen/mal tiempo and está lloviendo and although these phrases are perfectly fine for describing the weather, they lack a bit of vibrancy and colour.

Let's look at a few phrases that will brighten up your Spanish!

Two useful ones for those times when it's neither baking hot or bitingly cold you can easily add are: Hace Fresquito - It's chilly and Hace Calorcito - It's nice and warm.

But if the weather is really hot, here's a cracking phrase for you:Hace mucho calor hoy,¡el sol pega fuerte! - It's so hot today, the sun is beating down hard!

If the weather is unsettled, just say: Hace tiempo revuelto

You know how when it's raining heavily we say in English: "It's raining cats and dogs!" Well the equivalent in Spanish is:¡Mira, llueve a cántaros! - Look it's raining cats and dogs! which literally translates as "It rains to pitchers."

And if the weather is particularly bad, here's a couple of phrases that will really paint a picture:¡Qué tormenta! ¡Hace un viento de mil demonios! - What a storm, there's a wind of a thousand demons! Hace un tiempo de perros hoy - It's the weather of dogs today.

Thanks Peter I will try and bear those in mind.

Britain was battered


Britain is used to bad weather in winter but this year things seem to have got dramatically worse. High winds and heavy rain have caused untold damage already.

Yesterday it was torrential rain over the north of England, Wales and southern Scotland that brought misery to those living there.

The Environment Agency said that the flooding across the region on Thursday was so severe that such an event was likely to happen only once in 1,000 years. The rainfall, on to an already saturated terrain, was the highest level measured in England since records began. Meteorologists recorded 314mm (12in) of rain in 24 hours and flood warnings remained in place across the North West of England, parts of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Four bridges in Cumbria were washed away including one where a policeman, who was trying to help people to cross fell to his death. Cumbria County Council issued a warning to motorists and pedestrians to avoid using such crossings as they could be extremely dangerous. Hundreds of homes and businesses were evacuated, many of them ruined by floodwater and mud.

Emergency services continued to rescue those still trapped yesterday. They urged anyone who had gone to see the destruction for themselves to leave because their vehicles were blocking roads and hampering efforts to reach the worst-hit areas. In Cockermouth, the town worst hit by the flooding, people were winched from the waters. The two rivers that run through the town burst their banks, blocking roads and forcing the rescue of more than 200 people.

It appeared that the worst may be over. By early yesterday morning the flood levels dropped by about 2in an hour. Police estimated that 1,100 homes across the county were affected by flooding.

That is a lot of dosh

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled in a landmark legal case that the Spanish government has illegally overcharged non-Spanish residents capital gains tax (CGT) by 133 per cent during the period from 1997 up until December 2006.

The ruling now paves the way for a possible 317-million-euro refund from the Spanish government to UK citizens alone.
The ECJ ruled that the illegal capital gains tax trap contravened EU treaty rules and meant the Spanish government unfairly overcharged thousands of Britons.

The new ruling extends the reclaim period by an additional eight years so anyone who sold a property in Spain between 1997 and 2006 can now make a claim if they believe they have been illegally overcharged the tax.

Experts say the average tax reclaim currently stands at 15,000 Euros. However, as many as 90,000 Brits could be affected and are entitled to reclaim as much as 317 million Euros in total.

Friday, November 20, 2009

He will still be living here

You recall that Ginés Ruiz denounced his former partner Aurelio Murcia in October claiming that Murcia was occupying his house illegally.

The case has now been heard in Court Number 5 in Orihuela and the magistrate has decided that this is not the sort of litigation that the Law of Criminal Judgement is able to deal with. There is even the possibility of recompense to Murcia by Ruiz for damages.

Ruiz wanted to reclaim the house which was valued at 2,00,000 Euros and sell it in order to regain liquidity and avoid bankruptcy for the company Villas Andrea. However, there were problems first of all because the house has no license of occupation, it was regarded as a promotion project for the company and there was an agreement that the house was a gift to Murcia.

On a personal note, we have always found Aurelio very personable, he is a good neighbour who watches over our house when we are away. In fact we are well blessed with all our neighbours; apart from Aurelio and his family, we have Ken and Kay next door, Pepe, Eladia and Eladia Jnr across the road and Manuel and Eli next door but one.

So Aurelio we are delighted that you will still be our neighbour and are pleased that this pressure has been taken off your shoulders.

I told ‘em Oldham

Do you remember that advert on UK television for Oldham car batteries with the catchy phrase, "I told 'em Oldham"? At that time, I doubt that most people gave a second thought to the make of battery they had installed in their car. Oldham obviously wanted to change that.

I don’t know what has happened to Oldham battery company. I imagine, like any other car component company, they have suffered as a result of the huge drop in sales of new cars. Still, car batteries have a limited life and even if you don’t replace your car, you will still need to change the battery at some point. Having said that, my last car in the UK had the original battery in it when I sold it as a five years old.

Now to the point of this story. Many of you who have cars will have heard of the VARTA battery. Not only do they make batteries for torches etc., they also make batteries for vehicles. Their car batteries are produced in several factories throughout Europe including one on the outskirts of nearby Guardamar del Segura.

The factory at Guardamar, which was built forty years ago, had been badly hit by the economic crisis and was in danger of closure just twelve months ago. Now though, things are very different; they are turning out 700,00 batteries a month (250,000 more than previously) , 400 people are employed at the factory (an increase of 100) of which 80% are on permanent contracts and the factory is working seven days a week.

That is great news for VARTA and great news for Guardamar. Let us hope the company continues to go from strength to strength.

PS I have a slogan for the Guardamar factory which rivals the Oldham one – “Fit a Varta, it’s a better starter”. How corny can I get – worse than that I am afraid.

Now that is good news

Bigastro town council held an extraordinary session last night where they approved the general accounts for 2009 along with modifications to the credits and the council’s  PIP (Plan of Productive Investment).The vote was carried with abstentions by the PP party.

This special plan sets aside 560,000 Euros which will be used to re-tarmac most of the streets in the town, to improve public access and some work at the sports centre.

In my view, fresh tarmac on the roads will make a huge difference to both the look and the safety of the roads in the town. I just hope, they don’t do what they always seemed to do in England i.e. resurface the roads and then come along to dig them back up shortly afterwards to lay water, electricity or sewerage pipes.

3,000 percent profit in two years

Anybody is entitled to buy and sell land and make a profit in the process but when the mayor of Torrevieja bought rural land in Almoradí for 180,000 Euros and then sold it for 5.4 million to a Torrevieja building company just over two years later, this was bound to raise eyebrows.

The accusations against Pedro Ángel Hernández Mateo were taken to court in Valencia where the judges have now ruled on the case. Whilst they recognised that the mayor and his wife had made a huge profit from the sale, they say that there was insufficient evidence to show that this was as a result of having privileged information.

The regional court has now returned the case to Torrevieja’s court number 4 with a brief to either find firm evidence or drop the case.

Sr Hernández Mateo is delighted with the outcome which he hopes will end four and a half years of insults and slander that his family have suffered. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that; the mayor might be completely innocent but I suspect that the people of Torrevieja will not be so easily convinced of that.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

In a recent survey….

In a survey of their readers, Vegabajadigital found that 61% do not agree with José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero that the worst of the economic crisis is over. Sadly, I think they are probably right. All the information I have read shows that, although there will be signs of recovery in some areas, unemployment in Spain will worsen over the next year.

The online newspaper then goes on to ask its readers about the proposals to build two new car parks in Orihuela. One is for 400 places on the site of the Bullring and the other for 600 places is on Avenida de Teodomiro.

You will recall that the council set out plans to rebuild the bullring to be used as a multipurpose venue; not just for bullfights but for other events as well.  For the Avenida de Teodomiro, the council want to re-urbanise the zone with a boulevard, extend the pavements and generally modernise it.

Whilst the idea of redeveloping both areas have met with approval there are some that do not agree with the building of car parks. Are they mad? Orihuela must be amongst the worst of places to park that we have ever been to. If anywhere desperately needs more parking spaces, it is Orihuela. Admittedly you can always find a space at Ociopia, that is a bit too far out for most of the places you want to visit in the city.

A change of direction

pedre2 Not long after we moved here, a plan was set out to build a hotel and spa along with a golf practice course at the top of our road. Idearco paid the city council 2.1 million Euros for 35,000 square metres of land to build an aparthotel and the spa and a further 600,000 Euros to build a golf course on a further 45,000 square metres of land. In addition Idearco paid 4% of the cost of the licenses.

Then Idearco extended the design from the one in this artist’s impression and advertised houses that they intended building on the Internet.

The Valencian Autonomous Government stopped the project from going ahead because the reclassification of the land from rural to urban had not been authorised by them. Bigastro town council therefore had no choice but to annul the special plan for its construction.

Now both Idearco and the town council want to come to an agreement about what to do with the land. The mayor, Raúl Valerio Medina says that the best solution for both parties would be to resolve the matter without a recourse to the courts.

All parties concerned now consider that the original idea is no longer viable. The hope was that a rural hotel just outside the town would have attracted tourists and brought wealth to Bigastro. In the present economic climate that is not going to happen. Twenty years ago that might have worked but not now. In the first years that we lived here, caravans would come up to Camping La Pedrera and holiday in the rural surroundings; that is no longer the case.

Idearco have other uncompleted projects in Sector D-6 so I doubt that they are in a position to start another one up here. The area down to the coast is already littered with ugly building sites; the last thing we needed was yet another part completed project on our doorsteps thank you.

Quite what will now be built has not been decided but the thoughts are for something less ambitious, something more related to rural tourism which to be honest is more appropriate for the area. Actually, we quite like the land as it is.

Before they decide anything, I hope that some improvements are made to the road that leads down from the area to the town. In particular, it would be good if the problem caused by the storm drain spilling out onto the road just above the junction of Calle Le Vegan and Calle Cañada de Andrea is resolved. Every time it rains heavily the road is flooded with mud filled water from there down to the water collector. We call it the Rio de Andrea.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A mid week treat

I know that some of you like to eat out a lot and that you enjoy a drop of wine as well.

Tomorrow evening the 19th November the French 'Restaurante Gourmet' on the outskirts of Torrevieja is having a Fiesta evening promoting this years Beaujolais Nouveau.

For 20€ per head you can enjoy a three course meal and taste this years vintage

Call 966 702 422 to reserve your table.


From the N332 towards Torrevieja, from the south. Take 1st exit into Torrevieja, stay in right hand lane heading towards the marina. After the marina open parking, go left at the tobacconist and keep straight on. Pass the Playa del Cura on your right. Bear right with the bend and keep going straight on for about 1,5 km. At the buildings on your right, you see the sea and the promenade again. After 100m you will see Restaurante Gourmet on your left. Here you can park. From N332 towards Torrevieja, from the north. Follow the Torrevieja por la Costa sign at the roundabout (2nd exit) then go straight on for about 3 km, you will see the Torre del Moro on your left hand side and the Masa Int. hotel. Keep on going past the petrol station on your right, the 222 pizzeria on your left.,You will pass the Playa de los Locos on your left. Go straight on for about 2km. Then go left at the traffic lights (Playa Palangre) and follow the sea. After about 1,5 km you will find Restaurante Gourmet on your right hand side.

Summing up his first year

imageA year ago, the Bigastro town council was turned upside down by the resignation of the previous mayor, José Joaquín Moya. who had been in office for 25 years. At the time, Moya was in gaol whilst investigations were being carried out regarding allegations made against him by the opposition party.

One year on, the new mayor, Raúl Valerio Medina, sums up his first year of office in an article printed in the newspaper Informacion.

In the article the mayor says that his main objective for his first year in office was to restore calm and normality to the town, to put the past behind and look to the future.

Valerio goes on to deny that he has had to work under the shadow of the previous mayor; an accusation levelled at him by the PP. The new mayor says that, although he has received a lot of help from the previous councillors, he has been able to work independently. The decisions he has made have not been based on the past but on what he sees as the future for the town.

The mayor continues by explaining that Bigastro’s economic situation is complicated. When asked whether the financial situation was worse now than under Moya, Valerio says that the new administration faces more problems than the previous one did. He adds that it has been difficult making payments to suppliers and that many of these have had to be postponed. However, the mayor assures us that everything has been dealt with in a scrupulous manner.

With regards to city planning issues, Valerio says that two of the previous decisions made in the General Plans for 2006 and 2007 have had to be annulled or at least modified. In particular he refers to Modification 6 and 6A in the plan for Sector D-6 related to the number of floors allowed in buildings. He adds that the council now have more open discussions about these matters with the Conselleria de Urbanismo than before.

Of the future, the mayor says that they will continue working with cool heads; making decisions, responding to the political tensions they face and the accusations levelled at them. In his opinion, people have already seen that the council now works in a very different fashion to before. The main thing, as far as Valerio is concerned, is to demonstrate that the council values the people of the town.

Finally when asked whether he would be standing for office at the next election, Valerio said he would. He feels that he has been able to demonstrate a change from the previous administration and hopes that the people of Bigastro will want him to continue representing them.

In my opinion, Raúl Valerio Medina has brought a much needed breath of fresh air to the town. Even at the time of the last election, I felt that Moya’s 25 years in office was too long and the town needed a change. Whether the accusations made by the opposition against him were true or false didn’t matter, the fact that they had been made was sufficient to warrant a change of direction and that is what we have seen.

It can’t have been easy taking over from someone who had such long standing roots in the town especially in the midst of an economic crisis. The fact that Valerio has managed to restore calm in such a short period is a great tribute to his nature as a person and his political ability. My only gripe is that he too handsome; those of who are not blessed with his good looks can only look upon him with envy!

In case you were wondering

image The girls of Bigastro continued their winning streak last Sunday by beating Catral 6-2. Las Diablos Rojos, who are top in their league, meet Benidorm next week.

Photo from the Bigastro web site

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Swindon, wasn’t that a railway town?

Swindon is set to be the first town in Britain to offer internet access to all of its population via a WiFi mesh. The project is being jointly funded by the council and private enterprise.

There is a catch though. People who want a faster connection than that supplied will have to pay for the upgrade. Still, I imagine for many, the normal speed will be sufficient and it is FREE.

As I have said on several occasions, Bigastro offers Internet access to all its citizens via the Bigastel service. Whilst it isn’t free, it is a darned sight cheaper than any other alternative. So, Swindon might be on the “cutting edge” in Britain but Bigastro was ahead of the game by a couple of years.

Global wetting

I don’t know about the effects of greenhouse gases on global warming but they do seem to have brought about more extreme weather to the planet; violent storms, high winds and heavy rain.

The Canary Islands have long been the choice place for those looking for some winter sun but not yesterday. Two hours of intense rain starting at 4:30pm were enough to bring chaos to the north of Tenerife. In Los Realejos, Puerto de la Cruz, La Guancha, San Juan de la Rambla and Icod de los Vinos emergency services were stretched to deal with flooding in houses.

Badly hit was Puerto de la Cruz where in the Punta Brava district the roundabout was totally flooded. The central plaza at Charco was awash with a current of mud, Mequinés street was totally flooded and in the La Paz district, two cars had to be towed away by the police. The Martiánez zone was closed off to traffic due to the danger of landslips.

According to AEMET, Puerta de la Cruz had 19.6 millimetres of rain per square metre in just two hours.

Fortunately, in spite of all the material damage that was caused, there were no reports of deaths.

A cultural weekend in store



If you missed every other concert performed by the Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro this year, you should go to this one.

The concert in honour of the patron saint of music is always very special and well worth attending.



CONCERT given by the Compañía Lírica Alicantina
Musical director: Luis Molina and Artistic Director of José M. Navarro-José Serraima

Zarzuela is Spanish folk opera – wonderful to listen to even if you can’t follow the words.

Counter productive

It seemed like a good plan. The netbook I had ran a version of Linux and had 512Mb of memory to work with. It was good for surfing the web etc but when it came down to processing photographs for example, it was running out of steam. So, I bought a new one with XP and 2Gb of RAM and passed the slightly older one to Pam.

At first it was hard work because I had to guide Pam through every step. My wife does not have a great deal of patience and sometimes you do have to wait for the netbook she is using to do things. Still we are getting there; the number of questions I get asked are now fewer in number. Like a lot of newbies, Pam somehow thinks that if she clicks on the wrong button things will go horribly wrong. That is rarely going to happen these days with a system that is well sorted.

Pam is now becoming addicted to the Internet. With a first grandchild on the way, she is trawling the net for cots, clothing, travel systems; you name it. Pam is rapidly becoming an expert on modern baby care. Pam is also goes on Facebook, a site which quite honestly I can take or leave. She loves the gossip and all the photographs that our daughter’s friends post.

Now, I have no problems with any of that except when Pam goes on line at what should be meal times. In fairness, Pam has been kept waiting by me whilst I have finished off online so many times, I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count them. I guess I am getting a taste of my own medicine so I can’t complain. Put it this way, I daren’t complain!

PS It might only be a matter of time before Pam decides to write her own blog. I’ll let you know when that happens.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Meantime in Britain

We complained bitterly about the gale force winds that battered the Costa Blanca the other week and of the torrential rain in October but in truth that was freakish weather. Those of us who live here should spare a thought for storm ravaged Britain where bad weather is more of a norm.

From the Times.

image The gales and heavy rain that battered Britain over the weekend will be back on Wednesday after a brief lull.

Trees were uprooted by 100mph winds at the height of the storms and drivers had to be rescued from cars caught in flash floods. The winds brought scaffolding crashing down and boats were battered and blown on to rocks.

A tornado damaged 60 homes in Benfleet, Essex, and in Devon and Cornwall power lines were brought down, leaving 10,000 homes without electricity.

Tidal flooding was not as serious as was feared after Saturday’s wild weather but the Environment Agency estimated that 50 properties had been flooded by rising surface water.

Ryanair must be good

According to Euro Weekly, Alicante is bucking the trend for airports in Spain which saw a drop of 2.8% of passenger numbers last month. Even though the overall figures for the year are 5.4% down on last year, the monthly trend at El Altet is rising. A staggering 883,763 people used the airport in October making it the fifth busiest in Spain ahead of the Canary Islands in terms of passenger numbers.

The success of the airport is said to be due to the presence of Ryanair who fly to 50 different destinations  from Alicante. We have never flown with Ryanair so can’t comment but from the observations of others, they are the worst carrier out rivalled only by EasyJet in terms of customer service. I can only say they must be dong something right to be so successful.

Not a lot to trouble us


There is not a lot to cause us concern weather wise this week.

I’ve noticed fewer people going around in shorts and T-shirts which is interesting because when you consider it, 23 to 25 in the daytime and 13 at night would be a warm summer’s day in England. It is amazing how, within a few short years, you become accustomed to the climate. What felt warm back then now feels quite cold.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Have you noticed?

Pam regularly picks up the free newspapers in English whilst we are out. Like any free papers, these are crammed with adverts interspersed with the odd useful article.

Having glanced through some of them, It is noticeable that there are more and more adverts for places buying gold jewellery, watches and other valuables. Is this a sign of the times where people, who are strapped for cash, are having to sell the family heirlooms to make ends meet?

If I am right, then a return to more adverts for pools, air conditioning an home improvements will indicate an improvement in the economic climate.

Our Saturday night out

I have to confess we don’t often go up to La Pedrera. Last night was an exception.

The evening was organised in aid of animal welfare charity. Sorry folks but, since we have lived here, I am no longer a fan of cats and dogs; the barking dogs keep us awake at nights and the cats leave their muck in our garden. Still, even though I am not fond of them, I admit that animals deserve a decent life so I don’t mind contributing to a charity that helps them achieve that.

Having got that off my chest,  back to our night of entertainment. Pam and I  generally prefer live bands to discos and singers who perform to a backing track. Last night Darren had booked the Rolling Rocks who clearly from their name were a tribute band to the Rolling Stones. I am glad to say they were both live and lively with guys playing guitar, bass, drums and a singer.   

When we arrived at about 9:30pm, the band were well into their set of Rolling Stone numbers, belting out some of our favourites. To be fair, it is almost impossible for any local band to recreate the magic of the Stones which has been honed over years of alcohol and sometimes drug abuse. In my opinion, the Rolling Rocks did a good job but they weren’t the Stones. However, at the end of their first set, the Rocks went off to a well deserved rousing applause because they had worked hard. 

After an hour at the bar, the Rocks came back on and things were very different. Like Ronnie Woods and Keith Richards, the Rolling Rocks obviously needed a little “fuel” to get them going. Suddenly they were more animated, more lively and a lot more rock‘n’ roll. They belted out some great rock classics from just about everyone but the Stones. I have to say that any group that plays  numbers like ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” is good in my book.

Sadly that second set didn’t last too long because it was time for “Play Your Cards Right”, a game loosely based on the Bruce Forsysth TV show that ran from 1980 to 1987.

In the TV game, couples competed and had to answer a question based on a survey of 100 people. One couple guessed the answer and the other had to say whether they thought it was higher or lower. The winning couple were then first to play the main game which is the bit that Darren has based his version on.

Bruces’s game was slightly complicated with couples freezing and passing over the game to the others. Darrens version is much simpler with one person attempting to guess a sequence of ten cards correctly.

Last night, out of ten games, I don’t think anyone got past the third card. I don’t know what the odds would be for you getting to card ten but I imagine they are quite low. Still it was good fun and the audience seemed to lap it up.

Then we had a raffle, which on this occasion was for some very good prizes ranging from a meal out to a portable colour TV. Finally, the Rocks came back on to finish the night off. The time was after midnight when good children and pensioners should be in bed so we retired gracefully leaving the young and the still young at heart to rock the night away.

So, all in all,a good night  which we thoroughly enjoyed – thank you Darren. It is not something we would want to do every week but now and again it is great fun. Like Arnie, “we will be back”.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ready for your jabs

The regional health authority has taken delivery of 450,000 doses of the swine flu anti-viral drug in time for the launch of the vaccination programme on Monday, November 16.

The first tranche of the anti-viral drug has been distributed to medical centres throughout the Valencia Region and one million people are expected to be vaccinated.

Of these 78,990 are children aged between six months and 18 years who are suffering from a serious illness, 499,511 elderly people, also with serious illness, and the rest, 413,956 made up of pregnant women, workers in the health sector, those in the emergency sector such as police and firemen and anyone aged between 18 and 60 who has a chronic illness.

Health councillor, Manuel Cervera, said a 24-hour hotline, 900 100 355, has been set up so people who are not sure if they have swine flu or not can call to verify their symptoms.

He added that to date 1,924 people have used the service.

Health minister, Trinidad Jiménez, urged everybody in the target groups to go to their medical centres and have the anti-viral injection. She also said an additional 400,000 doses that are even safer for pregnant women have been acquired.

Sometimes it is safer on the roads

The Council of Citizen Security, the Council of Education and the Council of Health are collaborating with the education centres in Bigastro (IES Miguel Hernández, San José de Calasanz, La Paz, Bigastrín and the Escuela Permanenete de Adultos) to promote a campaign of road safety.

Following on from the advice about wearing a seat belt even for short journeys in the town, the campaign now moves on to the issue of using pedestrian crossings and pavements for walking on rather than the road.

Nobody could accuse Bigastro of short changing its citizens on pedestrian crossings, they are everywhere (just look at the new road they have completed to see what I mean). In some cases, it is hard to understand the purpose of these crossings because they lead to nowhere but still better to have a crossing than to risk lives.

As for the issue of pavements, there is a problem which lies with the materials used for them. Many of them are are as slippery as hell especially when wet. We know of several people who have been caught out including one of our neighbours who had a nasty fall last Saturday in nearby Almoradí. As a result of her fall, the lady broke her nose and ended up with a deep and nasty gash in her leg. I understand this is the fourth time she has fallen on slippery pavement here in Spain. We are really sorry this has happened to her and hope she recovers real soon.

Understandably, in these circumstances, locals are reluctant to use the pavements; preferring to risk walking in the road.

Maybe replacing some of the dangerous areas of paving would be a useful project for next year’s Plan E money in Bigastro.

A really good school

Yesterday, the infant school “La Paz” held an Autumn Market. In collaboration with the mothers from AMPA, the school made a display of typical products that the children could learn about and sample including those that you find at this time of year; chestnuts, pomegranates, persimmons etc.

image image
image image

We’ve visited La Paz several times and each time have been mightily impressed by every aspect of the school. Right from the welcome by the director, Isabel Verdejo to the displays about the building and the behaviour of the children; La Paz is a tribute to the hard work of all the staff that work there and the parents who contribute so much. The Autumn Fair is just one of many great projects that the shool has undertaken.

Electricity cuts

The Mancomunidad de Economic Promoción of the Vega Baja in collaboration with the Council of Promotion in Bigastro have organised a meeting about electricity consumption.

Presumably, at the meeting which will be held on Tuesday 24th November from 8:30 to 9:30om in the Auditorium, they will outline ways in which we can reduce consumption and thus costs.

Now I am all for that because the price of electricity here in Spain is amongst the highest in all of Europe.

Plan E phase 2

The council in Los Montesinos has decided to ask the public what works they think should be undertaken using the  money for Plan E next year. The mayor says that they want to know which projects would be most beneficial to the community, those which would enable them to construct a town where they would all want to live in future.

To achieve this aim, the tow hall has produced a survey with open and closed questions which residents can complete either on paper or online. Presumably, when the results come in they will be analysed to find out if there is any sort of consensus. Then they will have to draw up a list of affordable projects to submit to Madrid.

Now this does sound all very egalitarian and I am sure the motives behind it are good however, the cynical side of me says it could be that the council really don’t have a clue what to spend the money on next year. They are hoping that the general public will come up with something worthwhile.

It is the same with any staged funding, the first phase you know exactly what to spend the money on. By the second or third phase, if it wasn’t planned right from the outset, you struggle to find useful projects to undertake.

I doubt that  Bigastro will face this sort of dilemma because I’m sure the council have a list of improvements that could still be made to the town with next year’s funding.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Late for work?

Those of you who tried to go down the CV-95 yesterday morning may well have been delayed by an accident on the roundabout between the CV-95 and the motorway. A lorry carrying refuse overturned at about 7am. It took several hours to clear the traffic.

Clash of the Titans

image Sunday at 4pm, the Bigastro ladies’ football team meets the ladies of AT Catral at the Polideportiva Molins.

Without wishing to be sexist, I dare say the ladies are just as fierce in combat as the men and a darned sight prettier to watch.

PS I love the poster.

Christmas story competition

The Council of Culture and the Municipal Library have again organised their traditional Christmas Story Contest for this year.

This document explains all. The main points are:-

  • The story must be about Christmas.
  • It must be on a maximum of five sheets of A4.
  • It must have a card cover on which you can include a drawing or picture.
  • On the last page you should include your name, address, age and telephone number.
  • Entries must be handed in in at the library or at the front desk at the Auditorium by the 19th December.

There are three categories:

  • Children between 6 and 14 years of age – one prize
  • Youths between 15 and 18 years of age – three prizes
  • Adults over 18 – one prize of 150€

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A flaw in the system

When the building boom in Spain was in full flow, people would buy off plan, their houses would be built and they would move in before the rest of the work on their urbanisation was complete and the town hall had the opportunity to inspect the work.

At some point in the future, the local town hall would then complete their inspection of the properties and issue Licencias de Primera Ocupación or as they used to be called, Cédulas de Habitabilidad. It wasn’t until these certificates had been issued that the electricity and water companies (Iberdrola and Aquagest) would connect the houses to mains supplies. In the interim period, the builder would pay for the supply of electricity and water – in the case of electricity often by means of a generator.

Now that system didn’t pose a real problem during the boom years because houses and estates were completed quickly to meet demand. Once the economic crisis started to bite though things became messy. Builders, strapped for cash didn’t complete the work required by town halls and so they in turn would not issue the Licencias de Primera Ocupación. As the money dried up, so the people, who had bought their houses in good faith, eventually had their supply of electricity and water cut off. At that point they were in a “catch 22” situation.

Mindful of the misery that this sort of situation creates, Orihuela council have now decided to legalise 1,572 houses on Orihuela Costa this month and a further 536 shortly after. It has taken two years of deliberation to reach this point but now, the municipal technicians are happy that any defects in the houses are too minor for them to withhold the Licencias de Primera Ocupación any longer. That means that the owners will soon be connected to mains electricity and water.

It would be easy to blame Orihuela town hall for being tardy in this respect but of course their duty is to protect the buyer and make sure that builders complete their houses to the appropriate specifications. It would be very wrong of them to issue certificates like confetti.

No, in my opinion the fault lies in the system which I assume had been adopted to expedite occupation of newly built houses. I don’t know about other countries but in England, where admittedly the pace of building new houses was slower, inspection is an ongoing process such that, when a house is completed ready for occupation, it is already connected to mains supplies including a connection to the nearest telephone exchange. As far as I am aware, there is no such thing as an illegal house in Britain.

Perhaps when the crisis is over and building starts again here in Spain, the lesson will be learnt and houses will be fully completed with their certificates before the owners move in. Perhaps also people will be able to buy their houses by putting down a nominal deposit and will not be required to pay the balance until the house is fully completed because the system of making staged payments has also caught many buyers out in cases where the builder went out of business part way through construction.

In hindsight, It was an huge act of faith on our part when we assumed that, having paid 60% of the price of the house 11 months before the scheduled date for completion, the builder would satisfactorily complete the work. It certainly did not occur to us that there was a remote possibility we wouldn’t get mains gas and electricity after all we were assured by the salesman that connection was a matter of routine.

If we had our time again, we would think twice maybe even thrice before embarking on buying a a property here under these conditions but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t have wanted to move here. After all, hundreds of thousands of people did exactly the same as us without a hitch. It is only fair to point out that the horror stories represent a minority of buyers.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It’s a bad world out there in cyberspace

I recently got this advice sent to me by one of our neighbours on the estate:-

How to protect your e-mail address book A computer repairman says this is like having gold. This is a good thing. I learned a computer trick today that's really ingenious in its simplicity.As you may know, when/if a worm virus gets into your computer it heads straight for your email address book, and sends itself to everyone in there, thus infecting all your friends and associates. This trick won't keep the virus from getting into your computer, but it will stop it from using your address book to spread further, and it will alert you to the fact that the worm has got into your system.

Here's what you do:

First, open your address book and click on 'new contact,' just as you would do if you were adding a new friend to your list of email addresses. In the window where you would type yourfriend's first name, type in 'A'. For the screen name or email address, type AAAAAAA@AAA.AAA

Now, here's what you've done and why it works:The 'name 'A' will be placed at the top of your address book as entry #1.This will be where the worm will start in an effort to send itself to all your friends.When it tries to send itself to AAAAAAA@AAA.AAA, it will be undeliverable because of the phony email address you entered.

If the first attempt fails (which it will because of the phoney address), the worm goes no further and your friends will not be infected.

Here's the second great advantage of this method: If an email cannot be delivered, you will be notified of this in your In Box almost immediately. Hence, if you ever get an email telling you that an email addressed to AAAAAAA@AAA.AAA could not be delivered, you know right away that you have the worm virus in your system.

You can then take steps to get rid of it! Pretty slick huh?

Now, on the face of it, that might sound like a good idea but i thought I’d run it past my friend Pete who knows a lot more about computers than I will ever know and what he doesn’t know, his brother Dave does.

This is his reply Pete says:-

Nah, that's a non starter mate.
It sounds logical, but it makes some presumptions. It assumes that...
1. The worm sends rogue email using your email client
2. The worm collects its source addresses from your address book
In reality the worms get addresses from all kinds of different places. The also often carry their own SMTP delivery systems. There's no reason why the worm should identify itself as you being the sender, so even the 'undeliverable' report may not work.
As with 99% of such email propagated advice, I'd file it under 'well-intentioned nonsense'.

I reckon the only way to stop worms and other nasties from infecting your system is, as always, to install a good anti-virus program and keep it up-to-date. But beware, because Symantec say that up to 43 million people could have given their bank details to cyber criminals after being duped by fake anti-virus software online. Figures published by firm that produces Norton software, suggest 93 percent of the people scammed downloaded the rogue programs by choice after being tricked into believing it was legitimate. The company estimate that some cyber criminals are earning nearly $1.4 million a year from the ruse.

Web users fall prey to the scam when they click on links, pop-ups or flashing adverts warning them their computer is infected. The fake program then appears to run a virus check which tells the user their PC is infected and asks them to pay for it to be cleaned up.

But downloading the software can give criminals access to bank details and computer files. Symantec found 250 rogue programs were downloaded 43 million times in the 12 months to July 2009.

The best advice is to ignore those pop-up warnings and find a program for yourself from one of the leading companies like McAfee, Symantec etc. A lot of people I know use and trust AVG which produces a free version of their software.

You should also consider downloading and running anti-spyware as well. Again there are excellent examples of this software on the market which are free of charge. They give you a second line of defence which you need because the cyber criminals are getting good at making their software undetectable by popular anti virus programs.

Fishy business in Santa Pola

When we visited Santa Pola the other Sunday, little did we think that we were in the heart of a major drug trafficking operation.

The operation, which was taking place in a unit in the industrial estate, supplied the province and much of Europe with cannabis concealed in packages of frozen sardines. At the time of the arrest, eleven tons of hashish was confiscated along with 11,000 kilos of frozen sardines.

Nine people aged between 20 and 65 (all Spanish) were arrested whilst in the process of loading their cargo into three large trucks.

The problem is of course that, although a major point of distribution has been shut down, the source in Morocco is still operating and will be looking for other ways of distributing cannabis into Europe.

Right but not necessarily good

In an area where water is a scarce commodity, priority must be given to different types of users. It is the job of the CHS (Confederación Hidrográfica del Segura) to balance these demands. Although agriculturalists and the owners of golf courses use purified waste water, even so there is still a conflict of demand for this precious resource.

The owners of La Marquesa golf course in Rojales built and maintain a water treatment plant, the Pepin, which has a capacity to provide 600,000 cubic metres of purified water. The golf course requires 275,000 cubic metres, so the excess capacity is used to provide the town and the local agriculturalists with good clean water for parks, gardens and crops.

You would assume that this is a perfect arrangement that benefits all but there is a “fly in the ointment” and that is the CHS who say that the golf course does not have a licence to use that water and so are being fined 300,000 € (reduced from 600,000€).

This seems to be one of those occasions when what is right is not necessarily to everyone's benefit.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Extranjeros to learn the language

Over a hundred people from the Orihuela coast have signed up for Spanish classes according to José Antonio Aniorte, councillor for the coast.

The students will be offered five different courses at various levels which will run in the evenings and at night. Successful students will also be able to take examinations from the official school of languages and gain certificates to prove their competency in Spanish.

The council encourages all residents to take advantage of these free courses but I doubt that they will. It surprises me how few of the foreign residents in Bigastro take advantage of the course offered here.

Strong winds close schools

Schools in Orihuela and Elche were closed yesterday as the wind gusted up to 110 kilometres per hour. Infant classes were cancelled from the morning and primary classes in the afternoon.

Damage caused:- advertising billboards on the road between Orihuela and Bigastro suffered; the fence on the Levante bridge had to be removed; the roof of a car park in Elche went flying and the fencing at one school was lifted off its footings and fell onto the pavement.

In the early afternoon our teacher sent us a message to say that our Spanish class was cancelled. Unfortunately, my emails to some of our classmates did not get through in time to prevent them from attending. I apologise for that but without phone numbers, an email seemed my only option.

Yesterday evening the wind started to subside and all is calm again this morning so the process of tiding up begins.

Not forgotten


Brits on the Orihuela Costa celebrated Remembrance Sunday last weekend.

For the benefit of my Spanish readers, this is the day when we remember those who laid down their lives for Britain during the two great wars and the wars that British soldiers have participated in since ( notably the Falklands, the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan).

Member of Orihuela council including the mayor, Mónica Lorente attended the service at Mil Palmeras

The weekend’s entertainment


Saturday at 7pm

Competition School of Music “Santa Cecilia”

Students from the School of Music are invited to take part in this contest organised by the Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro

If you are intended to go, arrive early because there will be a lot of parents, grandparents and other relatives fighting for seats.


Sunday at 6:30pm

Locas pero no tanto, performed by the Group “the Despertá” of los Montesinos.

The interns of a psychiatric hospital rebel and plan to escape. The twists and turns as they try to carry out their plan will have the audience in pleats of laughter.

A good opportunity to try out your listening skills in Spanish.

Bigastro’s got talent

Young musicians from Bigastro triumphed at the 11th Certamen de Jóvenes Interpretes of the Vega Baja and Baix Vinalopó which was held last weekend in Rafal.

- Adrian Albaladejo: 1st Prize- First category brass
- Raquel Díaz: 3rd Prize- 1st Category woodwind
- Judit Belmonte: 2nd Prize- 3rd Category groups
- Estefanía Arques: 2nd Prize- 3rd Category groups
- Auxiliadora Juan: 2nd Prize- 3rd Category groups
- Emilio Bañuls: 2nd Prize- 4th Category brass

It is refreshing to see young people taking up an instrument and playing so well – it bodes well for the future of music in the town. Congratulations to all of these musicians and to the the others who took part.

Monday, November 09, 2009

My teeth can’t take it


I have to confess, generally speaking, I am not a great fan of turron. I quite like the chocolate version and the one made with egg yokes but the varieties with almonds are just too hard for my ageing teeth.

So you can rightly assume that we were not at IFA in Alicante yesterday to witness the largest turron in the world being displayed. The 40 metre long, 500kg turron must have been an impressive sight though. That is at least until the 500 people who were present devoured it within minutes of being given the thumbs up. By my reckoning that represented a kilogram of turron each person – surely not!

Unlike the This is Spain exhibition, which has become a damp squid, the gastronomic exhibition attracted 30,000 visitors in the four days it was held. There is a clue for the organisers of This is Spain – exhibit more food and less furniture and fittings.

Apart from the turron at the exhibition this last weekend, there was the “tunnel of rice” which had 3,000 portions of rice dishes prepared by dozens of different restaurants. Among them were the Michelin four star restaurants El Poblet, Ca Sento and Arrop. The rice dishes included arroz con caracoles y conejo (rice with snails and rabbit), arroz con pulpo (rice with squid) and risotto al parmesano (risotto with parmesan). The intention was to showcase dishes that were affordable as in fact most arroz dishes are.

Apart from the turron and the rice dishes, there were many other attractions for the visitors, including free tastings, competitions and top Spanish chefs showing off their new dishes.

Sounds like a good occasion for those with a healthy stomach to take it.

Orange alert


I don’t need to tell anyone who is living here that it is windy, very windy at the moment.As you can see most of this coast is on orange alert for wind today.

Yesterday there was a strong breeze during the daytime and then by night-time the wind picked up and was blowing at gale force all night. The howling wind outside and the furniture rattling on the roof made sleeping difficult. In fact that is probably the worst night’s sleep we have have had since moving here. I even got up and wandered round at some ungodly hour setting the burglar alarm off in the process. I apologise if that woke any of you up. Actually I doubt if anyone heard it over the sound of the wind.

I haven’t been outside to inspect the damage yet but I can already see the netting on the fence has torn loose at the bottom again. There are a few pots I can see that have blown over but everything else seems to be OK. Hopefully, the furniture on the roof will only have moved about. I’ll know more about that later when I brave going up there.

Anyway on to the weather for the rest of the week


It looks like the battering wind is expected to continue today and then start to drop towards tomorrow. So by the middle of the week, peace and calm should be restored for the time being. Fingers (and toes) crossed that we don’t get another battering like this for some time to come.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Thinking of Christmas

Friday we visited Totally Christmas (the Christmas shop) at San Louis (near to Reeves’ butchers). The people running the shop aren’t the same ones who ran it last year which is reflected in the stock they carry. This year there are a lot more of the small items that you might want to decorate your house and fewer trees.

The good news is that the Christmas shop has a good selection of cards. In previous years, Pam has bought cards in the UK, brought them back to Spain to write and then taken them back to the UK to post. With packs all priced at 2€ a piece in the Christmas shop, it seems hardly worth Pam going to that trouble.

The best value are packs of 40 half decent cards which works out at 5c a piece. Other packs, which have between 8 and 16 cards in them, still represent good value As pensioners, we can no longer afford the Marks and Spencer cards we used to buy! I'd already ordered personalised cards from VistaPrint for close friends and relatives so that cut down the number we required.

The next job is to write the cards and address the envelopes, a job which apparently I cannot be trusted with!

Maybe this year

Before we moved here, the address we were given was on Calle Le Vegan. We had cards printed with that address and sent them out. It was only when we got here that we discovered that our house is actually on Calle Irlanda. I therefore had a new set of cards printed to send out with the first year’s Christmas cards.

Four years later and we were still getting cards with the wrong address on. Each year we identify who the people are and make a point of telling them the correct address. Our fingers are crossed that all the cards are correctly addressed this year.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Una otra pregunta

Has anybody found a place where you can buy a plastic washing up bowl that will fit the stainless steel sinks that the builder fitted into the kitchens here at Villas Andrea?

We found, a bowl that we thought was right in Mercadona but the handles on it prevent it from fitting. We’ve looked in Eroski and Carrefour but to no avail.

The cost of learning

Aurelio Murcia, for the opposition party in Bigastro, complained yesterday that students from the adult school (EPA) are being asked to pay 200 Euros for their courses. He claims these are the highest fees being charged in Alicante province and cannot understand why they are necessary.

According to the PP spokesman, Bigastro receives an annual subsidy of 21,650 Euros from the Valencian Autonomous Government for adult education. Add to that 20,000 Euros from rates gives a total budget for classes of 41,650  Euros. Murcia goes on to say that the cost of running the service is 36,000 Euros which means that it makes a profit of over 5,000 Euros annually.

It has to be pointed out that pensioners and those on benefits only pay up to 30 Euros for their courses. This does leave 60 students though who have to find 200 Euros on top of which they will also have to pay examination fees.

When I taught evening classes in Liverpool and on the Wirral, the system was much tighter. Students had to enrol for classes before they started and pay their fees upfront.  Those who were claiming exemption had to prove their eligibility in some way. Anyone joining a class late, had to visit the principal first, pay their fees and get a receipt – they couldn’t just walk into a class.

Here in Bigastro it is different. Our teacher is expected to collect the receipts from the students to show they have paid. With new students arriving almost weekly, this is an impossible situation for her.

As far as I am aware, on our Spanish for Foreigners course, there are only a handful of us that have paid so far. Although most will pay, I suspect that some will brazen it out and will either pay reluctantly or will drop out of the course.   

The rubbish dump

image The CHS (Confederación Hidrográfica del Segura), the organisation responsible for the river, say that all their efforts to keep the river clean are being thwarted by the behaviour of the locals who treat it like a garbage dump.

The CHS annually removes 10,000 cubic metres of rubbish from the azarbes, (the channels that take water to the huerta).

A percentage of the rubbish has come from the rain water drains or is natural waste. However, the umpteen plastic bottles that they retrieve which have been used by agriculturalists and then tossed into the river when they are empty aren’t.

As the CHS says, this does nothing for the quality of the water and presents a very poor picture of the society that we live in.

In the past I remember reading about the other rubbish that gets dumped in the river including old mopeds which had had their engines removed. I used to think the people of Liverpool were the most guilty of dumping rubbish outside of the proper places, it seems that Spaniards are just as bad.

Now to a question: we have an old kettle which we know should not go in the green bin but where do we take it? I know there is a place to take items like this on the industrial estate but I don't know where it is and having driven round several times I can't find a sign for it.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Here to stay for a few days


I have to say, I don’t like the wind. When we lived in England it didn’t particularly bother me much except when I wanted to go out on my bike. Here though it is different because of the position of our house. We pay for the open views and living on a hill by being exposed to the wind when it blows from the direction of Orihuela. From the south and the east we are sheltered by the houses next door and across the road but from the north and the west we are open.

We’ve had two lots of cane fencing destroyed by the wind, three of the steel posts that hold the fencing bent and one snapped off completely. We also had two large pots smashed when plants blew over and a dent in the car bonnet caused by a flying table that was also destroyed by a fierce gust earlier this year. We had the feet on the gazebo strengthened after they were loosened by the gales in January.

When we first moved here, the chairs, table and pots on the roof rattled whenever the wind blew keeping us awake at night. A bit of careful repositioning sorted that out. As for the kitchen door, well there is no cure for that. We have a gas boiler for the central heating and so have a ventilated door in the kitchen. When the wind blows towards the back, it howls through the vents. That makes even a light wind sound ten times worse.

As you can see from this seven day chart, the wind is expected to increase up to Sunday and then gradually calm down next week. According to AEMET (the state agency) the wind will gradually increase until Monday when they say it will reach 36km per hour from the north west and then drop from Tuesday onwards – a similar forecast to the one above.