Sunday, February 28, 2010

No news yet

Some of you are probably wondering just what is happening with this baby.

After a false start last weekend which the midwife thinks might have been caused by the tummy bug that Laura picked up, things have all gone quiet.

The good news is that the baby is fine and seemingly happy just where it is. It is obviously in no great hurry to join us and will make its appearance when it is ready thank you.

In the meantime Dave and I are getting on with a few DIY jobs that need doing around the house whilst Pam and Laura relax on the sofa watching daytime TV.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A car park became houses

Towns in Spain set out their plans in a PGOU (Plan General de Ordenación Urbana). In Bigastro’s PGOU from 2005, as approved by the Valencian Autonomous Government, there was provision for car parking on a 700 square metre plot of land in the town.

What was actually built though were 23 apartments with commercial space below according to the spokesperson from the PP party, Aurelio Murcia.

In March 2006 the council granted licences for 18 flats adding another 5 later. This was supposedly in line with a technical report that assured this was part of the town’s PGOU. Murcia says that was not true which he says makes these properties illegal.

Although the present mayor was not in power at that time, he was councillor for urbanism and part of the socialist group.

Channels of communication

Those of you who visit the Bigastro web site will have spotted a new item in sidebar to the left called BUZÓN CIUDADANO and wondered what it is all about.

A buzón ciudano is literally a post box for citizens which allow them to communicate with their local councils.

To take part, you have to fill in a simple form in Spanish of course. Once you get a reply, your box is open and you can join in the council debates.

There are limits of course, it is not a vehicle for venting your spleen and is of course subject no normal rules of privacy, good taste and decorum.

There isn’t a lot there yet about Bigastro but I dare say that will change over time.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sports bar closes

image I can now tell you that the person who won over 740,000 Euros on Tuesday was Miguel who ran the “Sports Bar” so named because of the posters, scarves etc that decorate the place.

I remember Miguel telling us some time ago that he would like to sell up and move back to Cataluña where he grew up. Miguel, his wife and daughter moved to Bigastro, where his family had lived, seven years ago.

Now he has a windfall, Miguel has closed the bar ready for his big move.

Another airport scam

You hear a number of sorry tales of people being robbed  before they leave the airport. However, these three made it all the way to their apartment at Villamartín, Orihuela Costa before being turned over.

Whilst one of the visitors was parking the hire car, a female member of the party went upstairs to the apartment and was followed by a man who produced a knife. After a struggle the man cut the strap of the lady’s  handbag and made his escape  in a car driven by a female accomplice.

The advice that is always given is to carry passports, money, credit cards in secure pockets and not altogether, especially in a handbag or briefcase.

When you are picking up your car and even on arrival at your destination be extra vigilant when transferring cases and other belongings because you never know who is watching you.

Still waiting

Preparations for the arrival of Laura’s baby were completed weeks ago.

The spare room has been turned into a nursery with everything a baby could wish for including this beautiful Moses basket and stand.

At the moment, there are just two teddies in there but soon we hope they will give way to the real thing.

Babies won’t be rushed though and so we just have to be patient and wait. Don’t worry though, you will hear about it soon enough!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lady luck strikes in Bigastro

image Joaquín Moya Juan, proprietor of the lottery shop on calle Purisima shows us the prize that some lucky person picked up on Tuesday.

If you took part in the BonoLoto, then it would be a good idea to check your ticket because there are 741,758 Euros coming your way and a lot of friends queuing up outside your door.

Casting means casting!


The Festival Commission are looking for people to take part in a Festival of Humour and Music during the August fiesta.

To qualify you need to be over 12 years of age, funny, original and want to participate.

You have until the 18th March to let them know by phone on any of these numbers 626.952.636, 699.839.136, 646.528.747 or 649.959.258.

I qualify on at least one count!

The rat man’s coming

image The Council of Environment led by Isidro Ricart is setting out a program to rid the town of rodents and other pests. The main aim is to prevent the plagues of insects like cockroaches, fleas, processional caterpillars and other undesirables.

To help them you can fill in this form.


image This Sunday at the Auditorium, it is time to let the young band FLAMENCO FUSIÓN show you their version of classical flamenco music which combines percussion with guitar.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

You should see our gas bills

The UK press was full of reports last week about the ‘anger’ generated when the amount of money that is paid out to ex pat UK pensioners who receive the winter fuel allowance was made public. Mathew Elliott of the Taxpayer’s alliance was quoted as saying that the current budget deficit in the United Kingdom would have to be got under control and, “cuts in unnecessary benefits are going to be essential. That pinch will be felt at home but we should start with winter fuel payments to retirees in the Algarve.” It did not just apply to the Algarve by the way, but to Spain, Greece, Bulgaria in fact all those European countries clearly deemed by Mr Elliott to be in the ‘warmer winter’ category.

He went on to say, “These payments are an unnecessary luxury which taxpayers can no longer afford. To balance the books we need to identify any and every area of excessive spending, and heating the homes of people in Mediterranean countries is a clear example. Given that people back in snowy Britain can’t afford to pay their bills, it is simply wrong to subsidise those who have retired to sunny climes.”
Maria Wardrobe from the campaign group National Energy Action added, “It would be much better if that money stayed in this country (the UK) and helped deserving people who don’t get any help.”

The figures released by the Department of Works and Pensions showed that 63,470 ex-pats living in various European countries are claiming the benefit currently which amounts in total to about 14 million pounds. Under EU law, the UK is not allowed to discriminate between those UK national pensioners living in the UK and those living in another EU country as long as they meet the criteria, which in this case is that they must have been resident in the UK at age 60 to qualify. The benefit is not means tested at present either and has been in place for over 10 years and paid out 2.7 billion pounds in total last year to 12.3 million people according to official figures.

Actually the real nonsense about the winter fuel allowance is the criteria set for receiving it. Since Pam and I did not live in the UK during a particular week when we were 60, we don’t get the allowance. Those that did qualify, will continue to receive payments for life. If we had rented accommodation in the UK for the qualifying period then we would have been in that group.

Still no news

This baby is playing us for fools. After that false start at the weekend, it seems to have gone back to sleep. Maybe it doesn’t like the prospect of facing the return of snow and cold weather. Neither do we, Pam and I are accustomed to a milder climate now. Still the company is warm which more than makes up for the weather.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible

We got impatient waiting for our nieto(a) so we booked flights and accommodation to England.

Then we had a phone call to say that labour was starting which meant that our timing would be perfect. Unfortunately, that was a false start. This baby is going to keep us waiting which indicates to me that it must be a girl.

I will try and keep up with things back in Bigastro but as you will appreciate there will be more pressing things to occupy us soon. I certainly hope so!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Take a pair of sparkling eyes

This year’s Gilbert and Sullivan Society show, in aid of the charity Caritas Es, will be the comic operetta ‘The Gondoliers’.

The Stage Director, Trevor King, and the Musical Director, Cyril Willoughby have worked hard to ensure this will be a remarkable show full of colour, dance and music.

The show will take place at Casa de Cultura, Guardamar on 24th, 25th and 26th March. Tickets for the show cost 10 Euros and are available now from: Bargain Books, Torrevieja, The Card Shop, Ciudad Quesada, The Post Box Dona Pepa, Casa De Cultura, Guardamar, Bar Mediterraneo, Guardamar, or Telephone 966198396 or Email

For the benefit of my Spanish readers, Gilbert and Sullivan operettas were and still are very popular light entertainment in Britain. I suppose you could liken them to zarzuela. If your command of English is not good (and even possibly if it is!), you would find the dialogue hard to follow.

What’s in store for Bigastro

As i walked into the town yesterday, I couldn't help but hear the conversation between two Spanish neighbours on Calle de Subida Palmeras. On a bright and sunny morning when the skies were blue without a cloud in sight, one lady cheerfully remarked that it was a good day, “buen día” to which the other snapped, “¡mañana agua!” literally - tomorrow water. The lady said it twice as if to reinforce her disgust that this break from the grey skies and cold wet weather we had been having was to be short lived. My immediate thought was, surely the old lady was wrong so I checked.

imageWhat I found was that it all depends whose forecast you look at.

A couple of forecasts told me that, for today, we can expect rain. Weatherbug, for example said, there is a 90% chance of precipitation. It will be mostly cloudy and mild with temperature of 11°C. Winds from the SSW of 15km. Humidity will be 89% with a dewpoint of 9° and feels-like temperature of 11°C.

But when I looked at the State Agency forecast I got a slightly different story.


So who is going to be right?

The most reliable source of information is always the window in my room and looking out now I can see that it has rained quite a bit overnight but it is dry at the moment. The skies are grey but not as heavy as late. There is a band of low cloud hanging over the mountains at the back of Orihuela. I guess we will just have to wait and see how the day progresses.

PS I must seek out that old lady though, she obviously has good sources of information.

It’s been a very bad winter


Just what is happening to the weather in this region? Every week we seem to read of severe flooding in some part or other, southern Italy, Andalusia and Tenerife and now Madeira.

Portuguese naval ships with helicopters and medical supplies were on their way to the holiday island this morning, where violent rainstorms and floods that lasted 12 hours have killed at least 32 people.

The flooding has destroyed bridges and homes and cut off phone and electricity across the popular tourist destination in the worst storms to hit the island since October 1993, when eight people died and the worst in forty years.

Television pictures showed torrents of muddy water pouring through the streets of Funchal, the capital, flooding roads, over-turning cars and bringing down trees.

Winds exceeding 100 km an hour, high seas and blocked roads hampered rescue efforts on the island located around 560 miles off the south-west coast of Portugal. Officials had to evacuate the lower part of the town, which has a population of 100,000, as the floodwaters continued to rise and hundreds of homes are now flooded out with mud.

Divers are now preparing to search the bay for cars that might contain victims trapped inside.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

That is good value

Rojales has struck lucky with the weather for its third “jornadas de Tapeo”. For 1.50 Euros this weekend you can enjoy a tapa along with a caña – that is a small snack and a beer.

Thirteen of the local bars and restaurants of different nationalities are participating so there should be plenty of variety and choice.

As a bonus you can take part in a draw for one of four dinners for two at a local restaurant.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Taylor Wimpey is set to begin  construction of a number of small property developments in various parts of Alicante Province as the pound strengthens against the euro and the demand from British buyers starts to increase. The company aims to use some of the primes sites it owns to build developments of up to 30 properties in places such as Calpe, Monforte de Cid, Rojales and Bétera.

Sales director in Spain, Victor Sagué, said sales have been steady over the last year with 200 properties sold. The company hopes the trend continues so they can keep building. He added the company had reduced its prices by between 20 and 35 per cent.

While the news from the real estate sector is good, it was even better news from UK tour operators TUI and Thomas Cook who said bookings for this summer have gone up 10 and 15 per cent respectively.

The president of the Benidorm and Costa Blanca hotel owners association Hosbec, Antoni Mayor, said that last week the two companies sold 60,000 package holidays more than in 2009 and the forecast for this year is that the sector will recuperate its 2009 losses.

The only drawback for the sector is the national market which has traditionally bolstered low visitor numbers from other countries. Hosbec fears that national tourism will suffer if the economic crisis continues.

New airport terminal nearing completion

By any standards the new terminal at El Altet has been a massive undertaking. Built at a cost of 500 million Euros, the project has provided employment for 1,179 workers. Apart from the main company involved in the construction, 279 SMEs have also been involved – a total of 2,408 people.

Now it is near completion, all that is left is the work inside the building. When that is complete, the 330,000 square metres of space will allow passenger numbers to grow to 20 million at this, the most profitable airport in Spain. 

Just to confirm

image The decision to build the Microsoft innovation centre at Torrevieja has now been confirmed by the president of the Valencian Autonomous Government, Francisco Camps pictured here with Bill Gates in New York.  In the end, the fact that the local  hospital already uses Microsoft software extensively, the proximity to both Alicante and Murcia airports and to the universities at Elche and Alicante provided an irresistible case for Torrevieja.

The centre will start up with an investment of 800,000 Euros and employ a team of ten professionals and has the support of Microsoft, CAM bank and Telefónica who will be partners in the project. 

The mayor of Torrevieja, Pedro Hernandez Mateo is understandably delighted at the news and has thanked Doctor Manuel García Gea who is in charge of the hospital and all those who worked hard to make this possible.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Prepare for a shock

A Costa Blanca News reader and amateur geologist Nigel Michael John Day of Alfaz del Pi has posted a warning that the Valencia Region will be subjected to seismic activity on Wednesday February 24.

Mr Day says through a contact he has in Ireland, who is also a geologist, and based on indications he has been getting in the local area, he is as sure as he can be that there will be some kind of tremor or quake on that date.

Some indicators Mr Day has found include increased levels of sulphur dioxide, especially near the top of the Puig Campana which is classified as an extinct volcano; something Mr Day claims does not exist, as no volcano can be extinct. He also says he has discovered a hole in his garden that is emitting sulphur dioxide and runs six miles deep, reaching the fault line that crosses Spain from east to west.

Mr Day also says the building of a tunnel at Barranco de la Batalla in Alcoy has disturbed the fault line and this, along with other tell-tale signs, gives him strong reason to believe there will be seismic activity on February 24.

When it comes to measuring the intensity of earthquakes he said anything below five on the Richter scale is classed as a tremor and above five it is a quake. Mr Day  added that a plus five quake that lasts for more than two minutes would cause serious damage to people and property. Let us hope that he is wrong.

Pure street – not so simple

It has now been ten days since work stopped on Calle Purisima so questions are being asked as to why this should be.

Remember that the work started late because of problems in awarding the contract. Once those had been dealt with, the company responsible started tearing up the street just before Christmas which was unfortunate for the shops along Purisima. That is how it had to be because the work had to at least begin in 2009. However, we are now near the end of February and the work is still nowhere near complete.

As to why this should be depends on who you listen to. The mayor, Raúl Valerio Medina says that the delay is caused by lack of materials. He says that there is currently a shortage of granite which is being used for the sets and considers the delay to be insignificant. Aurelio Murcia, for the PP party puts a different spin on the story. He suspects that the FEIL money has been diverted from this project to pay other suppliers.

Although the new paving is a great improvement on the old, you can’t help but notice that quite a few of them are already stained. Whether they were like that when they were laid or have been spoilt subsequently I cannot say. Certainly if cars are later allowed to park on them, the paving slabs will only get worse with the inevitable tyre marks and oil drips on them. That will be a shame if it is allowed because within a few years the street will look tatty again.

Only time will tell.

Ready for the switchover


You may be aware that the analogue television service in Spain is due to be shut down.

To continue receiving TV programmes you need to change to TDT which involves buying a suitable box. Fortunately these are relatively cheap to buy and readily available.

To help you make the change, Bigastro town hall has arranged for information to be available from a caravan located on Calle Luna at the weekly market between 9am and 2pm and from 4:30pm to 6:30pm in the Plaza de la Constitución.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bee gone!

One of Pamela’s friends who lives on the Wirral has been having some renovations done to her house.

As part of the process, she decided to try and get rid of the bees that had set up a hive in the chimney stack. The bees would occasionally come into the lounge so it was time for them to go.

How do you set about removing bees though? If they had been swarming, a beekeeper could have moved them on but that would have still left the hive in the stack. So, the only recourse was to demolish the stack and the complete hive.

What they didn’t expect to see was this…

IMG00003-20100128-0928 The honeycombs almost filled the stack and reached down 1.5metres.
IMG00004-20100128-0928 From a different angle, you can see the routes the bees took into the hive they had constructed.
IMG00005-20100128-0940 Once the honeycombs had been been taken away, all traces of honey had to be removed to stop the bees from returning.

The mosquito netting that we had wrapped around our chimney stack to stop the birds from getting in should save us from a similar problem.

An odd sight


As you can see in this picture from Información, a thick blanket of fog covered Orihuela and much of the Vega Baja yesterday. This "boria", as it is known locally, slowed traffic down on the region’s motorways.

By all accounts, this has been a very odd winter; cold, very wet and now foggy. Our central heating system will definitely need a service once the weather starts to stabilise.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Daya Vieja takes the lead

When you first see young ladies on the side of the road or at the roundabouts, they are a bit of a novelty, something you remark on to your visitors. I don’t recall seeing  prostitutes plying for their trade in England except perhaps in certain quarters of major cities at night; you certainly don’t find them on the roadside in the daytime.

Quite how people explain the presence of these young ladies to innocent young children, I can’t imagine especially the ones who stand in their underwear waving to passing motorists. Spain has vowed its intentions to move towards a less ‘macho’ society but seems unwilling to do anything to stop this sex trade on the highways.

The mayor at Daya Vieja, obviously not prepared to wait for national legislation, has now decided to take matters into his own hands. He has put forward a proposal for a new municipal ordinance giving the local police powers to issue fines to the young ladies offering their services and also for their clients. Fed up with the tardy image that these problems bring to his town, the mayor has  gone a step further by including other ‘social offences’ under the same banner; drinking in public, begging, parking offences and unauthorised street trading. The proposed fines for these offences range from 750 to 3,000 Euros – substantial enough, I would guess, to act as a strong deterrent.

As is often the case, other municipalities in the region will likely take up the lead and apply similar ordinances to own their towns. If they do, it will certainly improve the image for families who visit the area.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A day in court


As it turned out, it was only José Joaquín Moya, the ex mayor of Bigastro who appeared in court yesterday. Aurelio Murcia had already made his declarations several days before.

Moya arrived in court at 11:30am accompanied by his lawyer and left an hour later.

In his declaration, Moya said that he had never committed a swindle adding that his mother never gave birth to him for that. In his view, the issue of the 350,000 Euros paid to the town hall for permission to build on Sector D-6 was an internal matter for Ruiz and Murcia who were partners in Star Sol to resolve. He went on to reject any claim that he was working in collusion with Murcia.

image Remember this is the infamous document that shows the receipt of the payments by Andrea Villas the town hall which amounts to 350,000 Euros for a canon (toll) for urbanising in Sector D-6.  

As you can see it is signed and stamped by José Joaquín Moya, who was mayor at the time.

It is dated 22nd December 2003 so why it took until 2008 for Ginés Ruiz Ibáñez to realise that a mistake had been made remains a mystery.  

Murcia said previously that this is probably a mistake and that the payment would have been for Sector D-9 (Urb, Villas Andrea) where the company were building. No se.

Carnival at La Paz


It is customary for town’s to celebrate just before the start of Lent. The carnival that I photographed last Sunday was in Torrevieja.

Not to be left out, the children from the Infant School “La Paz” in Bigastro celebrated with their own carnival last Friday.

The theme for this year was animals and animal stories.

With the help of their mothers and relatives, the children produced their costumes using, bin bags, cardboard, paper, any other material they could lay their hands on and lots of face paint!

The results were just amazing and included; small and funny snails, ducks and chickens, lizards and frogs, rabbits and ladybirds along with nymphs of the forest, small rats and little red riding hood and the wolf.

A great day for the children and a lot of fun for the parents and relatives. You can see more photos of the amazing results of their work here.

That should be good

imageJosé Espinosa, the Councillor for Culture in Bigastro presents a new programme of entertainment for us.

From February to June, Bigastrenses and visitors to the region will be able to enjoy a variety of productions with an emphasis on local music.

The programme starts this Sunday, 21st of February at 6:30pm with the traditional "Concierto del Socio" by the Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro.

The concert will feature the soprano, Susanna Vardanyan whose wonderful voice guarantees to raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

Pam and I don’t know if we will be here because our first grandchild is expected on the 19th. So, our lives are in limbo at the moment as we play the waiting game!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Murcia and Moya back in court

The old rivals, José Joaquín Moya, mayor of Bigastro for 25 years and Aurelio Murcia, spokesperson for the PP party will be in court today in Orihuela. This time though they both stand accused of swindle and illegal appropriation of monies paid to the town hall by the ex business partner of Murcia, Ginés Ruiz Ibañez.

It seems that in 2003, Villas Andrea, a subsidiary of Ruiz’s company Star Sol, paid a toll of 350,000 Euros to the town hall as the urbanising agents for the controversial Sector D-6 which I keep mentioning in this blog. Ruiz maintains that he never authorised that payment even though his name is on the receipt and now wants to know where that money went since his company had no interest in Sector D-6.

So, the two rivals who fought bitterly in the council chamber will now have to support each other in their defence – now that will be interesting.

Spring turned back to winter

imageI think you could say that it will rain today – a 90% chance is a fair bet. You’d also be safe in saying that it will rain again tomorrow as well. After that it should get better with Wednesday looking the best day out of the week.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Semana Santa in Torrevieja

For those planning to visit the area for Easter or who plan to have visitors these are the details of the main events in Torrevieja.

March 28th to April 5th 2010
The Easter processions include: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.The exact details for Holy week 2010 are not published yet, however, they normally follow the following itinerary pattern.
March 28th 2010
Palm Sunday / Domingo de Ramos

Morning - Blessing of the palms itinerary: Church of the Sagrado Corazón de Jesús (Sacred Heart of Jesús), Moriones, Caballero de Rodas to the Arciprestal de la Inmaculada Concepción.
Evening - Solemn procession itinerary: Church of the Sagrado Corazón de Jesús (Sacred Heart of Jesús), Moriones, Ramón Gallud, Mar, Ramón y Cajal, Avda. Libertad, Joaquín Chapaprieta, Ramón Gallud, Clemente Gosálvez, Caballero de Rodas to the Arciprestal de la Inmaculada Concepción.
March 29th 2010
Evening - Solemn procession - Procession itinerary: Plaza de la Constitución, Caballero de Rodas, Patricio Pérez, Ramón Gallud, María Parodi, Unión Musical Torrevejense, Patricio Pérez and Caballero de Rodas to the Temple Arciprestal.
March 30th 2010
Evening - Solemn procession - Procession itinerary: Plaza de la Constitución, Caballero de Rodas, Patricio Pérez, Campoamor, Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, María Parodi, Ramón Gallud, Patricio Pérez and Caballero de Rodas to the Temple Arciprestal
March 31st 2010
Evening - Solemn procession – The first part of the procession normally start by leaving the church on the Plaza de la Constitución and moving down Caballero de Rodas and María Parodi until the intersection with Calle Ramón Gallud.
The second part of the procession usually travels down Ramón Gallud to the intersection with Calle María Parodi. When both processions meet they all participate in the reading of the “Viía Dolorosa” (the way of sorrows).
The continuation of the procession moves down Ramón Gallud, Patricio Pérez, Campoamor, Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, Azorín and Caballero de Rodas and back to the Templo Arciprestal.

April 1st 2010
Maundy Thursday / Jueves Santo

A solemn silent procession normally starts at 23:00 - itinerary: Plaza de la Constitución, Caballero de Rodas, María Parodi, Ramón Gallud, Patricio Pérez, Campoamor, Turco, Gabriel Miró, Orihuela and Caballero de Rodas up to the Templo Arciprestal.
At midnight there is usually a solemn procession of the ‘ascent to Calvery’ itinerary: Plaza del Calvario, Santísima Trinidad, San José, María Parodi and Caballero de Rodas until the Temple Arciprestal.

April 2nd 2010
Good Friday / Viernes Santo
Morning – Solemn procession to symbolise the announcement of death of Jesus itinerary: Plaza de la Constitución, Caballero de Rodas, Patricio Pérez, Ramón Gallud, Apolo, and Caballero de Rodas until the Temple Arciprestal.
Evening – Solemn procession of the ‘holy burial of Christ’ itinerary: Plaza de la Constitución, Caballero de Rodas, Patricio Pérez, Ramón Gallud, Del Mar, Caballero de Rodas, María Parodi, Blasco Ibáñez, Campoamor, Patricio Pérez y Caballero de Rodas until the Temple Arciprestal.
April 3rd 2010
Evening – The end of the solemn resurrection vigil for the parish of the Inmaculada – This is time for jubilation, as Christ has risen from the dead. The bands are there with their drums and everyone is invited to join in the celebration with their own drums. Itinerary: Av. Habaneras, in front of the bus station, Zoa, Pedro Lorca, Moriones, Caballero de Rodas, María Parodi, Paseo Vista Alegre, Joaquín Chapaprieta, La Paz, Plaza María Pastor Ramos, Campoamor, Maldonado, Ramón Gallud and the Plaza de la Constitución.
April 4th 2010
Easter Day / Pascua
Morning - Holy Mass
April 5th 2010
Easter Monday
Morning - Holy Mass
April 12th 2010
Festival of San Vicente Ferrer.
In the morning there is normally a solemn procession to receive communion in the parish church of the Inmaculada.
This local fiesta is always celebrated on the Monday after Easter Monday.

It’s a problem at this time of year

Although the Costa Blanca is reputed to have over 300 days of sunshine a year, that does mean there are sixty days when it will be cloudy or raining and most of those will be at this time of year.

By Easter, the weather is usually beginning to settle down but even that isn’t certain. Two years on the run now we have missed the main parades for Semana Santa because they were rained off. We have our fingers crossed for this year.

Last Sunday, as I reported, Pam and I went to see the parade of comparsas which forms part of the Carnival at Torrevieja. There was supposed to be an even longer parade last night starting at 9pm but unfortunately it had to be called off because of the rain The parade has been rescheduled for 6pm today. Although it is cloudy, the forecast is for it to stay dry. Let’s hope so because the 1,500 people who are due to take part in the parade have put in a lot of time and effort not to mention money to provide a great spectacle for the crowd who are going down to watch.

Those of you who missed it last week and didn’t fancy a late night in Torrevieja on a Saturday night have a second chance to see the spectacle today – don’t forget your brolly though – just in case!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The word on the street

We were talking to one of the Spaniards that lives in Bigastro the other day about the problems the town is facing. She told us that popular belief was that the two one and a half hour power cuts that we experienced over the last couple of weeks were a warning shot from Iberdorla. Because Bigastro owes so much to the electricity company, they cut the supply to the whole of the town from Calle Purisima upwards.

I doubt that Iberdrola would admit to that even if it were true. It is hard to imagine how they could justify cutting the supply to homes of paying customers just because the town hall owed them money. In my  opinion, the fact the supply went off and came back on momentarily several times would indicate that there was a fault somewhere which was tripping it out.

The other rumour I’ve heard recently is that the reformation on Calle Purisima has come to a halt because the council don’t have the money to pay the company carrying out the work. Again, I think that is hardly likely since the money is coming directly from the Government. It would take a very bold and foolish council to try and divert Government funds to help bolster the town’s budget.

What is true is that the street lighting in Sector D-6, which was promised for the start of this year comes on some nights and not on others. So here is another rumour which I will start; the real reason we have had power cuts is because of problems with the installation in Sector D-6 and that is also why the street lights are on intermittently. Now I will sit back and wait for someone to tell me that as if it were a fact!

One thing is for sure, all these rumours are very damaging to the reputation of the town council and serve to further undermine the confidence that townsfolk have in their administration. I think you could say that things are not going well for Bigastro at the moment.

Bigastro described as hostile

Bigastro town council has been declared “hostile” by the Síndic de Greuges of the Valencian Community* because it has failed to provide documentation about reasons for the delays in urbanising Sector D-6.

The Sindicatura were acting on a complaint made by one of the companies building in Sector D-6, Sol Levante del Mediterráneo, that their rights were being harmed by the problems surrounding the city planning in this sector and the subsequent delays these have caused. As a result, the Sindicatura requested documentation from the mayor of Bigastro explaining the delay on three occasions but have not received it.

As a result, José Cholbi for the Sindic de Greuges says that Bigastro will be included under the section “Hostile Administrations” in the Annual Report that the Defensor del Pueblo de la Comunidad Valenciana will produce in Cortes Valencianas for the deputies and the press to read.

The spokesperson for the Popular Party in Bigastro, Aurelio Murcia describes this as "a shame for Bigastro” but adds that he is not surprised because he says the whole issue of problems in Sector D-6 have been clouded over by the socialist party. Rather cynically he says that next, the council will be refusing to provide documentation to the courts. Murcia believes that by using delaying tactics, Medina hopes that the problems will all be forgotten. Clearly this is not going to be the case.

As you might expect, Murcia is now calling for the resignation of the mayor which he says is the only solution because the mayor has refused to provide information to the people of Bigastro, the opposition party and now to a prestigious institution. Murcia concludes by saying that this refusal on the part of the mayor only arouses suspicion about what he might be trying to cover up.

* The Síndico de Agravios de la Comunidad Valenciana (in Valenciano, the Síndic de Greuges de la Comunitat Valenciana) is the name given to the Ombudsman of Valencia in Spain and is based in Alicante.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A shed becomes a house

image When you get your cédulas de habitabilidad (Certificate of Habitation) from the town hall and are connected to mains electricity then you assume that you are “home and dry” literally. The owners of 400 houses in Redován must have thought that but now they find it isn’t true because the mayoress of the town, Leticia Bas, has admitted in court that they were built on non-urbanizable land.

The case in Court Number 4 in Orihuela is looking primarily at two houses both of which were built on rural land, one of which was supposed to be a shed but turned out to be a house. Both were granted the necessary certificates to enable them to get electricity supply from Iberdrola.

The councillor for Urbanism says that “Redován is not an isolated case in the Vega Baja”. In other words there could be more similar cases to come. As an outsider, I can only conclude that a system which allows illegal houses to be built, sold and occupied must be fundamentally flawed.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

EHIC cards

image The Overseas Healthcare Team of the UK pension service is now sending out letters to UK pensioners who get a state pensions from the UK telling them how to apply for the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Pamela has already received hers as have many others here on our estate.

Attached to the letter is a simple form that must be filled out and returned in the envelope provided. Please note that the form contains the personal details of the recipient and therefore cannot be used by another person.

Anyone who is ¨dependant¨on their partner for health service registration as I am needn’t worry because they will get an application form for anew EHIC shortly after their partner receives theirs.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A quicker journey this summer


Travelling along the N332 between Guardamar and Pilar de la Horadada in the summer used to be a nightmare. It was one long traffic queue reminiscent of the M25 around London but now that is all set to  change.

The final piece of the jigsaw was complete when the Guardia Civil served a Judicial review on a land owner at El Fogon who had refused to accept the compulsory purchase order of his land which he was using as the site for a Sunday flea market. Now, the last 9.3km of the N332 between Guardamar del Segura and Torrevieja can be widened to a dual carriageway.

The Ministry has invested 21 million Euros in this scheme to ease congestion on this section of road which has the highest density of traffic in the Valencian region; an estimated 40,000 vehicles per day in the height of the summer season.

The stretch between Pilar de la Horadada and Torrevieja has cost a further 21 million Euros and is just waiting for the street lighting and service lanes to be completed before it is officially opened.

The final expanse of carriageway still to be improved is the eight kilometre ring around Torrevieja which runs from Las Barcos, a kilometer north of Punta Prima to La Mata. With few residential roads providing access to the beach, it is said for the most part that the density of traffic in this area is much lighter. However the procedure to transfer the land required to add a second lane along this stretch has already begun, although there is no indication of when it might be complete.

A great success

The great weather helped Orihuela to surpass all its expectations for the Medieval Market. The councillor for Festivals, Mayte Valero claims that over 500,000 people visited the city over the three days. This meant that shopkeepers and owners of bars reckon to have tripled their tripled their income over previous years. All this in spite of the fact that the cost of setting up the market was 180,000 Euros less than last year.

Valero has expressed his gratitude to the Local and National Police, the Guardia Civil, Firemen, officers of the Civil Protection force and of course the Red Cross for all their efforts. Thankfully there were no major incidents for them to deal with. Nether-the-less, it was comforting to know they were on hand.

The problem now is that next year everyone will expect the market to be even bigger and better!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Red Cross needs help

The Orihuela branch of Cruz Roja (Red Cross), which is dedicated to helping people in need, was swamped with new cases during last year, whilst donations became fewer. The promise of a grant from the Generalitat Valenciana has also been shelved forcing its organizers to search for contributions elsewhere.

The number of families registered to accept food parcels doubled to 460 during 2009, a clear indication of how the crisis has pushed several middle class families below the breadline, to depend exclusively on social resources. In 2008, Cruz Roja Orihuela distributed 9.664 kilos of food, increasing to 19.101 kilos in 2009.

Packages are jointly funded by the EU Food Bank and Valencian Department for Social Welfare and previously included milk products, oil, pasta, pulses, cakes, rice and cereals. However needs have become so desperate that more personal hygiene products and detergents have since been included, as well as grants towards electricity, water and mortgage payments.

The President of the Orihuela branch, Andrés Ramón Alonso, said that they wish to open a funded dining facility, as seen in other areas, although the project “Will not be easy as there are many requisites and determining factors”. He commented that charities and voluntary organisations such as Cáritas and Cruz Roja, cannot be expected to solve all of the problems of the municipality, adding that a certain effort must also be shown by the City Council.

This is not good news for Spanish workers

According to the National Statistics Institute, by 2049 almost one in three people in Spain will be 65 years or over, double the present level.

Spain is therefore proposing to raise the state retirement age from 65 to 67, so said the Minister of Work and Immigration, Celestino Corbacho, in a statement to the press last week.

He said that it was the only possible way by which the country could guarantee the future of the pension system beyond 2030. He stated that “it is necessary to postpone the retirement age if we truly want to guarantee sustainability for the pension system in 25 or 30 years time”.

The Minister said that “this is not a done deal; it is not a piece of legislation” insisting that it will still be necessary to debate the proposals far more than has already been done. He said, “Once we reach a consensus and the broadest possible agreement, then that will be the time to establish the details regarding the scope of the pension reform”.

The very thought of having to work until the age of 67 brings a shudder down my back. As many of you will know, Pam and I took early retirement at 57 with a reduced pension. It certainly is not a decision that we have come to regret. The prospect of being in the classroom with young children at 67 is not something we would want to contemplate. For those working with people of a similar age it may be different.

Plant a tree

image Following a delay due to the bad weather in January, students from San José de Calasanz school finally got to plant 100 specimens of native shrubs and aromatic plants at the Municipal Polideportivo.

The Council for the Environment in Bigastro organises this annual event. The councillor responsible, Isidro Ricart says that this type of activity excites young people. In addition it reminds them of the importance of maintaining and taking care of our surroundings, and teaches them respect for the Environment.

It is a wonderful idea; the children can see how the plants grow and flourish along with their own development. In years to come they can point to the plants and tell their own children how they were responsible for starting that new life.

Calling men with strong shoulders

image I have mentioned before the paso depicting ‘Jesus en la Oración el el Huerto de los Olivos’, it is the one carried by the international cofradia during the Holy Week parades in Torrevieja.

Most cofradias are made up of Spaniards but this one is different because the members represent the different nationalities living in Torrevieja. The ages of the members is also different because whilst the average age of cofradias is normally in the twenties, the average age of the international cofradia is in the sixties.

The cofradia needs a full compliment of 80 people on hand to lift and carry the 1,500 kilogramme float and since many of the members are now in their seventies and a few are in their eighties, the cofradia is looking for new blood.

The paso is carried twice during holy week so this in not an onerous commitment*. For new members a couple of training sessions will suffice since most of the ‘old hands’ have a lot of experience in handling the heavy paso. So you are looking at four maybe five sessions during the season.

The first training sessions and uniform fittings are due to be held shortly. Anyone interested, from any nationality, is most welcome to go along. If you are interested contact Graham Knight, the Godfather / Padrino and Captain / Capataz / of the Cofradia de Nuestro Señor Jesus en la Oración el el Huerto de los Olivos. Please email Graham at

* I nearly wrote heavy there but that would be wrong, just short of 18kgms on your shoulder is quite a lot especially if the person in front or behind drops their shoulder because then you get nearly 36kgms!

Monday, February 08, 2010

That was a blessing

imageThankfully the weather was kind for the Medieval Market at the weekend and for the Carnaval parade in Torrevieja. Saturday was glorious; warm with blue skies and sunshine.

This week does not look so good; a mixture of cloud and sunshine with some rain as well and the wind picking up for Tuesday afternoon. 

Carnival time

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The parade yesterday afternoon in Torrevieja was just spectacular! Such imagination, such beauty and all on a February evening when it was none too warm. You can see more of my photos here.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Possible problems for travellers

Easter is a popular time for visitors to Spain. It is usually a good time to escape the cold northern climate and catch a bit of sun. It is also a good time for those who want to witness the speculator Semana Santa parades. However visitors may have a miserable journey to Spain this year.

Negotiations between Spanish air traffic controllers and airport operator Aena over new pay and working conditions broke down on Tuesday with neither side willing to give ground.

Spokesmen, Juan Ignacio Lema for Aena and Juan María García Gil of the air traffic controllers union, USCA, both said the talks had reached their limit. Sr Lema said the 'obstructive and negative' attitude of union officials led to the breakdown, adding that the situation could affect air traffic flow over Spain. He said the union was seeking a 40 per cent pay rise, meaning a controller could retire at 52 with a 170,000-euros-a-year pension, which was not acceptable.

Sr García Gil said the government was at fault and it was using the situation for political reasons. He added that nobody was going to score political points off the backs of his members. Although USCA communication secretary Rafael López said there would not be a strike and its members were willing to continue with negotiations and guarantee full services, he warned that if a deal is not reached by April 1, the first day of the holiday period, they will revert to working practices agreed in 2004.

Experts say that Aena wants to reduce huge debt caused in part by air traffic controllers' high wages

Three of my favourites

Out of all the photographs that I took over the last couple of days at the Medieval Market, these three are my favourites so I have given them the black and white treatment they deserve.


This man with his characterful face was struggling to negotiate a sale of one of his rugs to an English couple. They had no Spanish and he no English.

Whether the sale came to a conclusion, I could not say. If it didn't then it wasn't his for lack of perseverance and patience.


This old lady, in traditional black as a token of respect to her dead husband, shuffles home oblivious to the noise and bustle of the Medieval Market that has been set up less than 500 metres from her doorstep.

The chic bars and designer shops that co-exist with a time almost forgotten provide a remarkable contrast between old and new Spain.


These children were on their way down from school into Orihuela and the Medieval Market that had been set up there.

You can see the excitement on some of their faces as they find their city transformed into a magical wonderland with all manner of sweets, toys and other treats for them to enjoy.

Roast pork anyone?

IMG_1091 Roast pork Spanish style.

Take a whole pig, remove all the innards and spear a steel rod through the snout. Spread the legs out and tie them with steel wire to cross pieces.
IMG_1092 Then place it over a charcoal fire making sure it is high enough up because once the fat starts dripping the fire will flare up.

Cook it slowly rotating the pig now and again to make sure it is thoroughly cooked throughout.

Be patient – start the process in the morning and by evening it should be ready to carve

Just think of all that delicious crackling!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Mercado Medieval

Those of you who visit the market in Orihuela over the next couple of days should find plenty to see and plenty to buy. More so than last year, you’ll find lots of places to stop and have something to eat and drink.

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You can find the rest of the photos I took yesterday here.

If you would like a copy of any of the photographs - go to my Flickr album where you can download them.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Bigastro fights cancer

image Those of you who visited the market in Bigastro yesterday on a cold and rainy morning may well have seen the mayor, Raul Valerio Medina, at the stand set up to inform people about the Worldwide Day against Caner.

The advice being given out at the display was, not to smoke, to eat healthy foods and take regular exercise.

Every afternoon you see ladies from the town walking up to La Pedrera as they take their daily exercise and at the same time you see one of our neighbours “Norfolk Dave”, who is into his eighties out with his stick walking round the old stone quarry.

These people all look remarkably well for their ages so there must be something in this exercise lark. I only wish I could motivate myself into joining them.

Fighting for his town

image When executives from Microsoft visited the hospital in Torrevieja, the mayor, Pedro Ángel Hernández Mateo did not waste the opportunity to try and persuade them that his town would be the best location for their worldwide centre for innovation and development of medical software systems.

The Microsoft executives, who stayed in a hotel 15kms from Torrevieja, were visiting the hospital to see the pioneering work that goes on there using Microsoft software. As Hernandez Mateo explained to them, only 12,000 of the 100,000 citizens in his town were born there, the rest are mainly Germans and Brits. He also pointed out that Torrevieja was close to both El Altet and San Javier airports and that the hospital was only 500metres away from the motorway AP-7. Finally he added that 15% of the new hospital is not being used at the moment  and would be available to Microsoft. If that is not suitable then there is spare land available within the hospital grounds.

Microsoft have pointed out that the decision about where their new centre will be located rests with the Valencian Autonomous Government and Francisco Camps. Even still you have to admire the mayor of Torrevieja for trying his best to promote his town. He fought of 17 years to get the hospital, he isn’t going to give up now in his quest to develop the town’s excellence in medical software further.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

You can have one of my paintings for a lot less

imageHow much would you be prepared to pay for this statue?

Let me tell you first of all it is six-foot bronze figure by Alberto Giacometti, the first of a series by the artist.

L’Homme Qui Marche I fetched £65m at auction in a boisterous sale of Impressionist and modern art at Sotheby’s headquarters in London last night.

Yes, you read that correct, it sold for the equivalent of 75,544,000 Euros to an anonymous telephone bidder who was in competition with nine others during the sale.

As one Times newspaper reader quipped, “I heard that Tony Blair bought it for his desk.... “

Actually, the truth is, it is going to look very nice in my garden.

Marking the centenary

I don’t need to remind you that 2010 marks the centenary of the birth of Miguel Hernández (October 30, 1910-March 28, 1942). As you already know, Hernández was one of Spain’s most prominent and important poets and playwrights of the 20th century.

To mark this occasion, Orihuela has organised a programme of over 500 events scheduled to take place during this special year. Members of all the associations involved in creating the activity programme were present at the official presentation of the events, including several Mayors of the Vega Baja area, representatives of cultural foundation Miguel Hernández, councillors of the Orihuela and Elche Town Halls, and the director of the Spanish Commission for the Year of Miguel Hernández.

The event was introduced by well known Spanish writer and journalist Fernando Sánchez Dragó, with the voice of Soprano Lola Montenegro singing the poet´s verses. Many Orihuela residents and visitors attended the presentation, which took place in Orihuela´s historic school of Santo Domingo, where the poet studied as a child.

Orihuela will host several concerts in 2010, including shows by Joan Manuel Serrat, Luis Eduardo Aute, Pablo Milanés, Jose Mercé, Antonio Orozco and a special live show by the famous Spanish singer, Alejandro Sanz.

Other events marking this anniversary will be a show by La Fura dels Baus theatre company, the 5th International Music Forum “Ciudad de Orihuela”, the International Congress on Miguel Hernández, and the Cinema Festival “El Cine de Miguel”.

Also, the Spanish Cycling Tour 2010 will go through Orihuela. There will be theatre plays for children and a poetry contest for children, as well as cultural routes across the city.

It always happens just as we are cooking the evening meal!

I don’t need to tell those who are living here that we had another of our infamous power cuts again last night.

At about ten past eight, the power went off, and came back again for less than a second three times. This is a pattern that is becoming all too familiar for us and we know just what it means. Somewhere there is a fault which prevents the electricity supply restoring itself. It means that we will have a wait for someone to come out before we get our supply back.

This time it was just after ten o’ clock when power was restored. It did come back again briefly a couple of times before that but obviously the fault had not been rectified so the lights returned for less than a second.

Since I bought my new UPS (uninterruptible power supply) last February it has recorded 23 electricity cuts and that is just when the computer has been switched on. That is 23 more than we ever had in the UK (except during the “winter of discontent” of course).

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

In the other direction


Whilst Orihuela offers a walk back in time, Torrevieja is in the midst of its annual carnival which offers plenty for the old and young alike.

The parades are perhaps the most spectacular part of the carnival. On a cold February night, it is warming to see young ladies dressed as though it was midsummer.

Comparsas contest parade
day: February 7th
see map: Patricio Pérez street, Ramón Gallud street and Plaza de Maria Asunción
Start time: 16:00 h.

3rd age costumes dance show
Day: February 11th
Place: Macrodiscoteca
Time: 6.00PM
Price: Free

Carnival theatre
Day: February 12th
Place: Local Theatre
Time: 9.00 PM
Price: 5€

Exhibition carnival by night
Día: February 13th
see map: Patricio Pérez street, Ramón Gallud street and Plaza de Maria Asunción
Start time: 10 PM

Getting ready to go back in time


Preparations for the opening of the medieval market in Orihuela are now well under way.

This photo from the newspaper Información shows the building of the castle where the Catholic Kings will arrive on Friday at 11:30 am.

From that point on there will be lots to see and do.

You will find more information here and you will find a program for the three days including a map showing you where it will all take place by clicking on this link.

The all important weather. After all the bad weather we have had lately, it looks as though it should be fine for the market this weekend with Friday and Saturday being the best days for sun.