Thursday, March 31, 2011

A novel idea

Someone called Brad has contacted me after reading my blog with the following message:

Hi Keith, I'm Brad, I'm contacting you because you are a Brit in Bigastro, Spain! :) We've created a new car rental company in Spain, Brit Car Hire, the one and only specialized in right-hand-drive cars. We need all the support and love we could get from the expat community in Spain, because we're launching this summer and we're small and new. That's another reason I'm contacting you.

Right-Hand drive cars for Spanish roads? Sounds crazy. Well, it is. But it also makes a lot of sense. We thought of all the British drivers that are having a really hard time adapting to the roads in Spain on small trips, for example on a six or seven day holiday. We created Brit Car Hire so that they can enjoy more pleasant drives and better holidays.

The idea is strange and different, we know. But before launching we've done studies, to evaluate what we could do to help British drivers (and Irish and Australian) to drive more comfortably on Spanish roads. That's why we've included alerts to help drive in roundabouts, remind what mirror is most important and what lane to drive in. We've also adapted the cars so that the headlights and other items are perfectly adapted to Spanish roads, since the cars we provide have been directly imported from the UK. (please visit Brit Car Hire Benefits to for more detail)

If you want more information, please drop me a line and it will be a pleasure to reply. I know that your blog is personal, but we'd be very happy and very grateful if you could give us a hand mentioning us, it is a very different idea and it would be great if the people that follow your blog could get to know it.

Best regards, and congratulations for your blog,


It is true that it can take a while to adapt to a left hand drive car especially if you have driven a right hand drive car for some time.

For example, when I first tried a left hand drive hire car for a few days, I was constantly hitting the door with my left hand as I went to change gear.

Strangely enough, when I take a hire car in England now, I adapt back to changing gear with my left hand without a problem - I suppose it is because it is deeply ingrained in my memory to do so.

The bullfighting museum

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Some of the famous bulls
are hung as trophies on the

Only when you see them in
this way do you appreciate
just how big the animals
Amongst the memorabilia in the museum is this collection of posters.
Posters from corridas are an art form in themselves.

Even if you are not a great fan of bullfighting, it is worth calling in to the museum in Murcia. The trajes de luces on display are quite spectacular and show just how diminutive the taurino that wore them were.

Bloomin lovely

IMG_9476aYesterday, we took Jemma to Murcia for the day. At 2.20 Euros each on the train, it was hardly going to break the bank and certainly wasn’t worth taking the car for.

On our way up to the Cathedral we passed the Glorieta de España where these geraniums provided a splash of red for my camera.

We had morning coffee with crepes and then made our way to the Salzillo museum.

Next stop was the Bullfighting museum which is housed in the Association of Bullfighters.

Having absorbed ourselves in the history of bullfighting, it was time for lunch so we made our way to the Plaza San Domingo where the menú del día was more than sufficient to keep us going.

By this time, the shops were closed so we took a leisurely stroll along the river and then headed back to the railway station.

En route we were stopped by three different people who asked us if we were English. When we told them we were, they were delighted and took the opportunity to try out their command of the language. They were surprised and equally delighted when we told them we lived in Spain in nearby Bigastro and  kindly told us that our Spanish was good. 

Met with indifference

At 43%, Spain's youth unemployment is the highest in the EU by far, and more than double the average. For those aged 16 to 19 the rate is 64% – an 11% increase on the previous year. One in five of those under the age of 30 are still looking for their first job, and almost half (46%) are on short-term contracts of less than 6 months.

Youth unemployment here is higher than in Tunisia and Egypt. It's so high that many young people have to look long and hard to see past it.

Spanish unemployment has always been stubbornly high. Even at the height of the boom it was higher than that in Britain at the depth of the economic crisis.

Electorally, most expect an increase in voter abstention among young people at the next elections. While British youth invented punk, and black America created hip hop as popular cultural responses to economic crises in previous decades, there seems to be little evidence that resistance is being expressed in other ways beyond trying to forget all about it.

Given that the situation of young people is so bad it should come as no surprise to find that Spain has one of the highest rates of cannabis and cocaine usage among its young in western Europe. The botellón, the social activity for younger people of drinking alcohol in public areas such as the streets, also increased in popularity until recent police clampdowns.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Gongs for all

The proposal was made at the council meeting last night to award 10 of the local councillors along with the mayor with the Isignia de Oro, the highest distinction that the council can give, in recognition for the work they have done during this most difficult term of office.

The award will be for all of the councillors from both the PSOE and the PP including those who are currently under investigation for various infringements of planning regulations and Aurelio Murcia who recently resigned his position as spokesperson for the PP.

The meeting also approved the auction of spaces in the multi story parking at La Paz. This building has only been open for one week since it was completed over a year ago. You may recall that the cost of the building overran by 800,000 Euros which the council could not pay so the constructor refused to hand it over.

They also plan to auction off 62 parking spaces in the basement of the Auditorium to re pay the loan from the Cajamurcia bank.

Parking in the centre of the town is at a premium so the council expect a demand from both residents and local businesses. The price per parking space will be between 10 and 12 thousand Euros.

The council must now look into the legality of auctioning the parking spaces.

Monday, March 28, 2011

That’s more like it

image This is the kind of weather we were hoping for this week because our eldest daughter is over to stay with us.

Temperatures of 25 will feel like a good summer day to someone from Wolverhampton.
image Weatherbug are not as optimistic so I think we will go with AEMET’s forecast.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Why Bigastro was picked on

As you already know, Iberdrola restored power to the municipal buildings in Bigastro last week after the town made a payment of 80,000 Euros and promised to pay 20,000 Euros off its debt each month.

Reflecting on the situation, the mayor of Bigastro asks why this town was singled out to have its electricity cut when it owed 280,000 Euros and cited the example of Torrevieja which he said has a debt of 1.3 million Euros to the same company. Raúl Valerio Medina Lorente claimed that Iberdrola showed its political bias by acting differently towards socialist and conservative led towns.

However, as the Councillor for Finance in Torrevieja, Joaquín Albaladejo pointed out on SER radio, Torrevieja accumulated its debt because of the increased price of electricity which had not been budgeted for. He went on to explain that, unlike Bigastro, Torrevieja had stuck to its payment plan and added that suggesting Iberdorla had shown political bias was just a way for he Socialist Party to cover up for its disastrous management.

It’s later than you think

Check the time on your computer and you will find that we have lost an hour somewhere. Of course you knew that all along because last night the clocks went forward. I had to send a text message to my two daughters to remind them of that. Our eldest daughter is flying out to stay with us on Monday and we would not want her to miss the plane!

Actually I remember when I taught in Liverpool there would always be a handful of children whose parents had forgotten to adjust their clocks and I recall that one time there was even a teacher who turned in an hour late one Monday because she had forgotten. It took some time for her to live that one down.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

New terminal built to handle 20 million passengers

El Altet opened on 4 May 1967, replacing the older La Rabassa aerodrome that had served Alicante since 1936. It took its name after the El Altet area (a part of Elche's countryside) where it was built. The first commercial flight that landed in the airport was a Convair Metropolitan by Aviaco.

Iberia established regular connections between Alicante-Madrid and Alicante-Barcelona in November 1969. In the early 1970s passengers' traffic reached 1 million, which prompted a construction of a new passenger terminal. In 1980 the runway was extended to three kilometres

In 2010, Alicante Airport handled 9,382,935 passengers, 74,474 flight operations and 3,113 tonnes of cargo, making it the sixth busiest airport by passenger numbers in Spain, and one of the 50 busiest in Europe. Furthermore, it is the busiest airport in the Valencian Community.

The existing terminals were struggling to cope with that volume of traffic and so work started on a new terminal which was inaugurated by Aena and Public Works Minister Jose Blanco this Wednesday and opened for passengers on Thursday. It replaces both of the existing terminals 1 and 2 for all incoming and outgoing flights.

The new terminal covers an area of 333,500 square metres, six times the size of the previous Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 buildings together. It has 98 check-in desks (compared to 53 in the old terminals), 26 boarding gates (compared to 16 in Terminal 1 and 2 together) and 16 luggage carrousels. Passengers can also enjoy a choice of 20 shops and 16 food and drink outlets.

Special technology incorporated in the terminal includes the Automatic System for Luggage Management, which has capacity to deal with 7,880 bags per hour, and uses a radio-frequency chip to track the luggage and minimise the number of lost bags.

The new terminal is part of a € 628 million expansion project for El Altet, which also includes a new six-storey car park, the improvement of road access to the airport, and a power station to supply electricity for the airport.

Our eldest daughter arrives at El Altet on Monday morning so we will get a good look at the new terminal then.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Just be aware

After a couple of years without any break ins on the estate, I am now told that there was an incident this afternoon where a house was broken into and the thieves got away with an assortment of items. Although the neighbours were at home at the time, none of them recalled seeing or hearing anything untoward.

It is possible that we have become complacent and have stopped taking the security measures that we did a couple of years ago when there was a series of break-ins. The security gates, expensive locks and burglar alarms that people had fitted will only work when they use them. Leaving lights on and a radio when we are out are simple precautions that we have been advised to take.

What we don’t want, is a further spate of burglaries on the estate; it unsettles people and makes them fearful of going out.

None of us came here to live in fear.

A very different process

Having your car tested in the UK can be both harrowing and expensive. You can check many of the items included in the test yourself before taking your car for its MOT. However, it is difficult for most people to check e.g. the exhaust emissions or brake efficiency unless they have access to some fancy equipment.

In the UK most people will take their car to a normal garage for testing which can lead to nasty surprises and a hefty bill.

I remember taking my wife’s Nissan Micra to a place in Birkenhead that offered cheap MOTs. They claimed that the exhaust emissions were too high and offered to rectify the problem at a price. The resulting fuel air mixture was so weak that the car would not run properly and so I had to take the car to a Nissan dealer to get it sorted out. There was apparently nothing wrong with the original setting. Later on, I took both of our cars to a local garage for MOT. Surprisingly, because we had our cars serviced regularly, both of them failed requiring over £100 worth of work each to rectify the problems.

Wary that garages may fail cars just to provide themselves with work, some of my ex-colleagues would take their cars to the Council depot in Liverpool for MOT tests. Although the tests were deemed to be more through than those in some garages, there was no incentive to fail vehicles to create work.

The full cost of a UK MOT for a car is £54.85. Many garages will charge less if you have a service done at the same time. Some dealers, e.g. Audi, will even offer a free MOT.

Here in Spain, things are different. The equivalent of an MOT is conducted at an ITV centre. There is no such thing as a cut price test, everyone pays the full whack. In the case of my diesel Roomster that was 65.25 Euros (petrol cars are a little cheaper).

The documents you need are the registration document (permiso de circulación) and technical paper (ficha technico). The technical paper describe the conformity of the car to the manufacturers specifications which is one of the things they are looking for in the test. It is important therefore that you have paperwork to cover any modifications from that e.g. a fitted tow bar, blacked out windows or a change of wheel size/tyres.

Once you have registered for your test and paid, you wait in a queue for your car to be called forward.

Unlike in the UK where you would normally leave your car for its test and call back later to pick it up, for your ITV you stay with the vehicle. First off, the tester will check your oil. Then he will ask you to operate all the lights, wipers, indicators and horn. The tester will then get in the car to check the emissions at two points on the rev band. He will then move the car to the rolling road to check the brake efficiency (you can see the results for yourself on the monitor). You get back into the car and drive it over a pit where a second technician checks the underside of your vehicle (which again you can see on a TV screen) – that is it. A very slick process that takes about ten minutes or so.

At the end of the test you get a certificate with four categories ranging from favorable to negativa. If the result is favorable you get a sticker for the windscreen that shows when your next test is due. Otherwise you can rectify the fault yourself if it is minor or take the car away and have it repaired if it is “grave”. I’m not use what happens if you car is deemed to be “negativa” because that basically means it is unfit to drive.

On the back of the certificate is a list of items that could be included in the test and on the front is a list of corresponding numbers that were checked along with the results of the emission, brake and noise level tests. There is also a photo of the rear of the vehicle which shows the number plate printed on the sheet.

What you don’t get is a hand written greasy piece of paper like I used to get in the UK. Nor do you get greasy hand prints on the bodywork of the car, dirty floor mats and a greasy steering wheel like I once got in the UK! This is a clean, efficient and transparent process with no hidden surprises at the end.

NB You don't need your insurance payment slip to get an ITV as some web sites suggest and interestingly, you don't need either your ITV or your insurance documents to pay your local car tax. Of course, if you are stopped by the Guardia, you will need the lot!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The earth shook in Torrevieja

imageAn earthquake of 3.1 on the RIchter scale shook the region south of the Vega del Segura and part of the Murcia region yesterday. Its epicentre was off the coast in the area called  Cabo de Palos. The quake was followed by aftershocks which shook tall buildings in Torrevieja.

As José Antonio Vidal, head of Civil Protection in Torrevieja, points out, small quakes like this mean that the tension between the tectonic plates is being released slowly rather than building up to a larger more powerful and potentially devastating quake. Modern buildings are designed to withstand shocks up to 5 with minimal damage.

A great result

The mayor of Bigasto, Raul Valerio Medina has successfully negotiated a new plan with Iberdola to clear last year’s debt for electricity. The council paid 80,000 Euros this week and will pay a further 20,000 Euros each month to pay off the outstanding amount (this will be on top of the normal monthly bill).

Yesterday afternoon, the town hall, the community centre and the auditorium were all reconnected to mains supply so there will be no more flickering lights during performances. The mayor expects the sports centre and the campsite La Pedrera to be reconnected today. 

Now the mayor’s challenge is to face Rosario Bañuls who has taken over from Aurelio Murcia as spokesperson for the opposition PP party. Apparently she continued in the same vein as her predecessor at last night’s meeting when the council voted to legalise the sale of green land in the industrial estate by pointing out that the issue was currently under investigation for a crime against planning.

No doubt Sra Bañuls will be in similar form for tonight’s meeting which was called for by the PP to discuss a range of “outstanding issues”.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Let it rain

imageIt may not rain as often here in southern Spain as it does in northern Europe but when it does, boy does it rain!

There is not a lot that can wake me up in the middle of the night (apart from Pam poking me because I am snoring) but the rain last night did. At 2am I could hear it lashing down outside the house.

Of course, not having guttering does not help because the rain runs off the roof and hammers on to the paving especially at the inside corners of the roof where there are gullies to take the rain. At those points, the rain rushes down in torrents and shoots out like a waterfall onto the ground below.

Our English neighbours had guttering installed but without surface water drains around the house all the water from their roof races down the downspouts onto their terracing. I’m not sure whether that is better or worse that having it pour off the roof.

One thing I am happy to report is that there is less than half an inch of water in the pool box this morning. Having sealed the two holes that were drilled into the base of the box to drain it, I seem to have stopped most of the rain water from filling up every time we have a downpour. There is obviously still some small point of entry but that is minimal and should not cause a problem with the electrics in the box.

The important thing now is for the weather to settle back to normal before the weekend. Our eldest daughter is coming out to visit us next Monday for eight days. Whilst she does not expect to sunbathe too much and certainly won’t be trying out the pool, she would like to get about during her stay without the need for an umbrella and a waterproof coat.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Did you loose a Picasso?

Spanish police have published a catalogue of recovered stolen art and precious objects in the hope of reuniting them with their rightful owners. Among the items retrieved during raids are six Picasso pieces from 1933 titled Cardinal Sins, each in its own silver frame. Other pieces featured in the catalogue include an Etruscan bronze sculpture estimated by police to be 2,000 years old, jewellery made of gold, diamonds and emeralds, Roman coins, and a 17th-century tapestry depicting the Battle of the Granicus, at which Alexander the Great defeated the Persian Empire.

If I owned even one Picasso, I would be more than eager to have it returned. The police would not have to come looking for me, I would be looking for them!

Will it last?

image The weather was glorious at the weekend. The question is, “will it last?”

Sadly the answer to that question is, “NO”.

We will almost certainly get rain on Wednesday which could well last into Thursday.
image It should then get brighter again towards next weekend but there could still be a spot of drizzle around.


A very good friend of Pamela told her that, now we are retired we should aim to do just one thing each day. Well that rule was broken yesterday because there was so much going on.

First off we went down to the town to see the classic cars which stretched along both Calle Purisima and in the area around. There were lots of Seats as you might expect but there were plenty of other marques as well: German, American, French, British and Italian along with some interesting motor bikes.

You can see my photos here.

Having snapped away at the cars, we then sauntered down to the flea market in the park. This had been organised by the Association that helps families with Alzheimer suffers in the town. It is an excellent cause well worthy of support. I was pleased to be asked to take photos for them which I shall pass onto my neighbour Eladia (she is the lady on the left in the group photo).

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IMG_9363a IMG_9368a

Having returned home for a meal, we headed back down to watch the concert which featured the Juvenile Band from Bigastro and the band from the Conservatory in Orihuela.

Technically, the band from Orihuela were excellent but the music was brash and loud with a heavy reliance on percussion. The Bigastro band, on the other hand played a selection which was easier on the ear.

Adrian, the Bigastro band’s director, was more relaxed than he was on Saturday which transmitted to the band who therefore played with more confidence. When you look at the ages of many of the musicians, it is truly remarkable that they are so accomplished.

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IMG_9424a IMG_9423a

And what did Pam and I do when we got home? We watched that classic film, “The Third Man” which had been recorded from the other night.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

This should be interesting

With local elections on the horizon, we can expect to receive details of the policies from the parties involved real soon.

Now, as everyone in the town understands, Bigastro is undergoing a financial crisis and so we should not be expecting any wild promises about increases to services. What I  expect most voters in the town will be looking for is that the parties make sound and concrete suggestions as to how Bigastro can move back towards solvency. That is going to be tough for them because inevitably it will mean talking of cuts and nobody really wants to hear about those. However that is the reality of the situation and none of the parties in the election can escape from the truth.

Making bad news sound palatable is not easy. It will be interesting to see which, if any,  of the parties can pull this off. I imagine their manifestos will talk about what the Americans call, “a damage limitation exercise”. I will keep you posted.

Que supresa

Yesterday was Father’s Day here in Spain. To celebrate, the Unión Musical and the Banda Juvenil de Bigastro put on a special concert for us.

First off we had the junior band who were just wonderful. It was a difficult programme for them to play but Adrian, their new director took them through it flawlessly.
Then we had the main band from the town who played to their usual magnificent standard.

As a delightful touch, the members of the band went into the audience to give their respective father’s a gift before going onto the stage to play.

Now for the surprise: Emilio Saez, the President of the Unión Musical de Bigastro made a speech prior to his retirement from the post in which he thanked those people who had contributed to the success of the band and in that speech he included yours truly for my work taking photographs.

I was both surprised and delighted in equal measure. Many thanks Emilio, you made my Father’s Day very special.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spend now–pay later

You might wonder why Bigastro is so much in debt that it cannot pay for electricity and other essential services.

Like many towns in this region and in some other parts of Spain, Bigastro grew exponentially during the boom years of construction.  With the growth came wealth the likes of which had not been experienced before. Bigastro used that new found wealth to greatly improve services for the people of the town. The council also used the money to  build new facilities that before the boom years could only have been dreamed of. Life was good.

However, the rapid growth of the town would have posed a problem because there would have been a time gap between the demand for extra services, the cost of building new facilities and the  income coming in from the new residents.

New residents do not pay local taxes for at least a couple of years and neither would the town hall have received support from the government for the expanding population. The answer to that problem in Bigastro was to sell of municipal land to pay for the extra services required but of course you can only sell land off once. When all the land is sold, there is nothing left in reserve. Balancing the town’s budget by disposing of assets was a short term fix that only worked for one year or so.

When the boom years ended, the money dried up and Bigastro, like other towns, ran up mounting debts which it can no longer meet.

Applying foresight, the council at that time should have realised that the boom years could not last and  that growth at those levels was  not sustainable. They should have planned for that and been more prudent in their spending, providing only what was affordable without resorting to using the extra income that was coming in from construction. In my opinion, the spend now and pay later model that Bigastro adopted in those boom years caused the grave problems that the town now faces.

Bigastro is not alone in facing these issues, the average debt for councils in this region is double the national average. The amount per inhabitant in the province rose from 435.7 Euros in 2008 to 530.7 Euros in 2009. By the end of 2009, Alicante town halls owed 998 million Euros to the banks. I don’t know what the figures for Bigastro are but I would guess that they are at the high end of the scale.

The only possible solution to all this is to cut the services back to a level which the town can afford but of course with an election in May, councils like Bigastro are unlikely to do much in that direction – being prudent  does not win you votes.   Sadly, there will soon come a time when they have no choice.

Looking to the future with a brave face

In a time of financial crisis, it is a bold company that looks to the future and makes an investment in a new shopping centre but that is what Immochan España are doing on the Orihuela coast.

The new Zenia Boulevard shopping centre they are building is due to open its doors next November with leading brands such as Alcampo, Leroy Merlin, Decathalon, Norauto. Worten, Primark, Zara, Pull & Bear, Massimo Dutti, Stradivarius, Oysho, Bershka, Zara Home, C & A etc. taking up spaces; in all they expect 150 companies to show interest.

Immochan España have created similar facilities in eleven countries and currently have developed 312 shopping malls, 30 in Spain.

Occupying an area of 180,000 square metres, there will be parking spaces for 5,000 cars and 80,000 square metres of shopping at Zenia Boulevard.

The best news of all is that this new project will create 1,800 direct jobs and 3,000 indirect jobs for people in the area.

PS Forget the Habaneras, Thader and Ociopia, you can bet that Mrs W and our girls will want to visit this new centre regularly once it takes off. I just hope there will be a decent photography shop for me to browse in.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Borrowed time

The recent earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan serves as a reminder to people here of the quakes that have devastated this region in the past.

The earthquake of 1748 destroyed the church of Our Lady of Monserrate in Orihuela. The one in 1755 shook buildings in Guardamar and a further quake in 1823 added to the damage. However, it was the quake on the 21st and 23rd of March 1829 that did the most damage to the towns of Almoradi, Benjúzar, Rafal, Formentera, Rojales Torrevieja. Over a thousand people lost their lives during that disaster and between three and four thousand houses were ruined.

Nobody knows whether or when another quake will occur or indeed how powerful it will be. In that sense those of us in seismic regions are all living on borrowed time.

Iberdrola cuts the electricity supply to public buildings in Bigastro

November last year, the local council agreed a payment plan with the electricity company to pay off the 280,000 Euros that it owed for 12 months supply. An initial payment of 150,000 was made followed by an agreement to pay the normal bill plus 50,000 Euros on the 18th of each month. However the payments were not made and ten days ago the mayor tried to re-negotiate a reduced amount of 20,000 with Iberdrola which they turned down.

Yesterday, things came to a head when the company cut the supply to four of the town’s public buildings including the town hall. Everything went dead, lights, computers, photocopiers – the lot. With no other choice, the town hall has started to install generators to provide electricity to the affected buildings.

The mayor, Raúl Medina Valero doubts that Bigastro is the only town to be in debt to Iberdrola and yet it seems that ours is only town where the supply has been cut to public buildings, schools and health centres.

The town council also owes 20,000 Euros to Telefonica for six months of bills. It seems that a payment plan has been agreed with the company and measures have been put in place to curb costs.

Almost day-by-day the council are having to juggle between who they can afford to pay and who can be put off. In the end though, companies will not continue to supply and council workers will not continue to work without payment. It would be reassuring to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. At the moment, that must seem a long way off. No matter what your political allegiances are, you can't help but feel sympathy for a council who find themselves in this situation.

A cookery lesson

Yesterday we got a lesson in cooking simple Spanish desserts from the ladies in the other adult classes. They made buñuelos and eggy bread.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

No sense of responsibility

EU Regulations set the age at which children can handle fireworks at 16, the Spanish government sets the age at 12. The Regional Government of Valencia has lowered that to 8 years of age for certain fireworks on certain occasions. They are referring of course to the Fallas, the Bonfires San Juan fiestas, the fiestas de la Magdalena de Castellón and the festivals of Moros y Cristianos.

What this means is that, at those festivals, young children on the streets can continue throwing fireworks at pedestrians and passing cars without parental supervision or police intervention – madness! To them it is just a game but to the innocent victims it can inflict serious injury.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pick up a bargain

imageThe Association of Relatives of Alzheimer Suffers in collaboration with the Council of Social Welfare have organized a flea market for this Sunday the 20th of March from 9am to 2pm in the park.

This is a great cause which deserves our support. I have been asked to take photographs so will be there.

PS Don't forget that there will also be the classic cars on Calle Purisima and tapas in the street on Sunday not to mention the concert at 6:30pm.

What are they doing?

The house below us, which has been on the market for some time, was sold recently. Now normally you would expect the new owners to move in and spend some time arranging their furniture, getting to know the neighbours and generally settling in to their new environment.

But no, the people who bought this house are engaged in some major changes to the structure. For most of the weekend all we heard was banging and shovelling, clearly they were knocking down some walls inside; lorries came to take the rubble away.

Since then there has been a lot more banging and drilling going on, so much so that it is hard to believe there is much left of the house inside. Pam and I are not nosy people (well I am not!) but we do wonder just what is going on.

PS I am leaving this in the hands of our friends who live opposite the "House of the three eagles" to find out!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Double booking for the young ones


Thursday, March 17th at 9pm

Cineforum: "Up in the Air"
Organized by Department of Culture and the University of Alicante (Secretariat of Culture. Aula de Cine)
At the end of the show, Cinforum will discuss relevant aspects of the film with the audience.


Saturday, March 19th at 6:30pm

Concert for "Father's Day"
Musical Union and the Youth Band of Bigastro, will celebrate this special day with a magnificent concert dedicated to all fathers.

Sunday, March 20th at 6:30pm

A Joint Concert with the Youth Band of Bigastro and the Conservatory of Orihuela.

Stupendous, magnificent, amazing….

On Sunday we had one of those rare treats because in the evening, the Compañía Murciana de Danza performed at the Auditorium Francisco Grau in Bigastro and boy were they good.

You can see my album of photos from this occasion here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A getting better week

image Well, well, it seems that it was supposed to rain today. hat hasn’t happened yet but there is still time.

For tomorrow, there is either a 90% or a 30% chance of rain -  I think I’ll go with 30% and see what happens.
image By all accounts, it will be one of those “getting better” weeks with the best weather at the end of the week.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Welcome back

It seems like ages since we last saw the sun in the house. All those dull days and heavy rain were so depressing, it is good to feel the warmth back in the old bones. I am even inspired to go out and do some work in the garden if I can tear myself away from this computer.



Saturday, March 12, 2011

Trip to Salamanca

I received this message today.

Hola, Keith:
¿Cómo estáis? He estado estas últimas semanas leyendo tu blog, después de un tiempo sin poder entrar debido a estudios. Imagino que todavía seguís asistiendo a las clases de español del Ayuntamiento y me preguntaba si podías pasar la siguiente información a algún compañero de clase o vecino que pudiera estar interesado. Se trata del viaje que organizo todos los años. Esta año vamos a visitar Aranjuez y su Palacio Real, Ávila, Salamanca y un poco de Madrid. En total 3 Patrimonios de la Humanidad (World Heritage Sites) y todavía quedan algunos asientos libres en el autobús. Faltan 4 personas para que podamos ser el número mínimo.
De momento, Wendy e Ian Sharpe viene de nuevo al viaje y dos amigos más. No sé si de Villa Andrea también o no. Te agradecería mucho que comentases mi viaje en tu blog o en clase de español, para que mis estudiantes puedan viajar a estos lugares, que son preciosos y merecen la pena visitarlos. Yo hace dos años que estuve allí y estoy encantada con la idea de poder volver.
Espero que las clases te vayan bien y que algún día tenga ocasión de hablar contigo.
Un saludo y mil gracias por anticipado.


3 NOCHES/4 DIAS del 28 de Abril al 1 de Mayo


Salida desde el punto de origen dirección Salamanca. Parada en Aranjuez para visitar el palacio real (Patrimonio de la Humanidad) y comer por cuenta de los clientes. Llegada al hotel cena y alojamiento.


Desayuno, salida para visitar la población de Ávila. Ciudad amurallada declarada Patrimonio de la Humanidad. Murallas, casas, palacios, templos, conventos… configuran el rico patrimonio artístico de la ciudad de las tres culturas. Guía por la ciudad durante medio día. Almuerzo por cuenta de los clientes. Regreso al hotel cena y alojamiento.


Desayuno y excursión a la emblemática ciudad de Salamanca, declarada toda ella Patrimonio de la Humanidad, ciudad plateresca, monumental y universitaria, llena de iglesias, palacios, colegios y casa Nobles. Destacamos su Plaza Mayor de estilo barroco, donde confluye el Ayuntamiento, el conjunto catedrático y la Universidad, con su famosa fachada del siglo XVI y la Catedral Vieja. Visita de medio día con guía donde visitaremos:

- Puente Romano

- Catedral Nueva

- Catedral Vieja (entrada incluida)

- Universidad Civil (entrada incluida)

- Casa de las Conchas (visita del patio)

- Clerecía

- Plaza Mayor


Desayuno temprano para emprender el regreso al lugar de origen. Parada en Madrid. Almuerzo por cuenta del cliente. Después del almuerzo regreso al punto de origen. Fin de nuestros servicios.

Precio por persona (habitación doble) ………………………295€

El precio incluye:

· Autobús para el circuito

· 3 noches en Hotel Regio en Salamanca con régimen de media pensión.

· Guía en Ávila

· Guía en Salamanca

· Entrada en el Palacio de Aranjuez

· Seguro de viaje.

I know that several people form Villas Andrea have enjoyed these trips which represent remarkable value for money. This one, as you can see is to Aranjuez and the Royal Palace, Avila, Salamanca and a short trip to Madrid and there are four remaining places. If you are interested, contact Maria at

A virtual tour for free

As the Royal Wedding looms close, you can now follow a 3D version of the route to be taken without having to set foot out of the comfort of your home all thanks to Google Earth.

Starting at Westminster Abbey, the 3D route takes in the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, Number 10 Downing Street, Horse Guards Parade, the Royal Mall (with 3D trees lining the route), before finally reaching Buckingham Palace.

To see all the landmarks and greenery in Google Earth, tick the '3D buildings box' in the left-hand panel under “Layers,” then type “London” into the search bar on the top left and use the navigation controls on the upper right to zoom in, spin around and tilt the view. Or users can access the shot via visiting ‘Earth View’ on Google Maps in the browser.

For my Spanish friends who may have never visited London, there are thousands of 3D aerial images of other historic buildings in the capital now available via Google Earth. You can see Britain’s capital city without having to pend a penny (or should I say a centimo).

That is some fine

What do you do if you get lost in the mountains? Bear Gryles might suggest lighting a fire with some rubber or polystyrene to create black smoke but only on open ground and certainly not in a forest during summer when everything is tinder dry.

In 2005, Michael Hanks from Colchester got lost when he went for a walk with his girlfriend in the Sierra Nevada national park near his holiday home in the village of Acequias. He called emergency services and then lit a small fire within a circle of stones to send up a smoke signal so they could locate him. Unfortunately the fire got out of control and it took 227 fire-fighters using 12 planes and 20 helicopters eight days to extinguish the flames.

Now a court in southern Spain has imposed a fine of 10.6 million Euros on the man – 1.3 million Euros to cover the cost of putting out the fire and 9.1 million Euros for the cost of restoration and restocking the area.

I doubt that the 66 year old man will be able to pay that amount so it will be interesting to see what happens next.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Calling all pooches

As part of the Trade Fair on the 3rd April, Bigastro will be hosting its first ever Beautiful Dog show in the Parque Huerto del Cura.

From 10am there will be a variety of activities: obedience training, the competition itself for pedigree and non-pedigree dogs and advice on breed recognition.

If you are interested in participating then sign up for the competition on the 1st floor of the Town Hall in Bigastro, in "The Pet Boutique (Calle Goya) or Tel 968 386 244

Organizers: the City of Bigastro, Alicante Canine Association, Canine Association Community of Murcia, La Boutique for Pet and Arion.

PS I hope the council have someone on hand to clear up all the dog dirt left behind!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

More misery on the cards

The right to strike is a fundamental right as far as trade unions are concerned. However, as many groups of workers have discovered, striking can be counter productive when it it looses your cause public support.  This phenomena is most evident in the travel sector where the ensuing chaos caused by strikes creates untold misery for passengers.

Airline strikes affect not only the carriers, they affect the whole tourist industry and in a country like Spain which is heavily dependant on tourism, that is bad news.

Now we read that a dispute involving Aena, the state-owned firm that runs the country's key airports, could mean a total of 22 days of stoppages beginning on the 20th April this year. The workers have earmarked dates in May, June, July and August for further industrial action involving airport runway staff. The planned stoppages are being held to protest against the government's plans to sell off parts of the company.

Although Aena says baggage handlers and air traffic controllers will not be affected, budget airline Ryanair has demanded EU action to prevent a repeat of the misery that blighted flights across Europe last year.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

A wet week ahead

image Having left mild and sunny Manchester we arrive back to a blustery Vega Baja.
image Looks like we could be in for a spot of the wet stuff later this week. Friday and Saturday are forecast worst and then it is back to norm for Sunday.

The good news I have found the hole that lets water into my pool box. It was originally covered with tape which has now gone.

I’ll be resealing the hole before Friday when it looks like it will get a fair testing.

That sounds interesting

This weekend at the Auditorium, witness the work of the Murcia Dance Company. 

Support local tradespeople

On the 2nd and 3rd of April, there will be the second Fair Trade exhibition in  City Park Huerto del Cura.

There will be a wide range of displays including a catwalk show of fashion and accessories, footwear, optics, decoration, food, beauty treatments, hairdressing etc.

The aim of course is to encourage people to shop locally rather than going “out of town”.

Back in business

Is it really only five days since I last posted on my blog, it seems like a lot longer.

Those of you who have followed this blog may remember that this time last year we were in Manchester celebrating the birth of our granddaughter Molly. So this time it we have been over to England for her first birthday.

It was a whirlwind trip with a lot going to pack in to a few days including a trip to the Wirral to see Pam’s father and to catch up with our friends Hugh, Angela and Andrew.  The main event though was the birthday parties (yes there were two). The first was a teddy bear’s picnic with all Molly’s friends from nursery and her swimming class. The second was a grown up do in a restaurant for Laura and Dave’s friends.  Both were equally enjoyable for all concerned and especially for Molly who beamed her way through it all.

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Friday, March 04, 2011

Did I forget to mention….

…that it was going to pour down last night? Well neither did either of the weather sites I visit.

It was bright yesterday morning but then started to cloud over in the afternoon. You knew it was going to rain and boy did it. We could hear it gushing down from the roof and looking out at the pool, I have saved topping it up for at least three weeks. There is a good couple of inches of water in there that wasn’t yesterday.

It is not raining at the moment but the skies are very heavy and I can hear thunder in the distance.

Correction: - It is raining now!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The new iPad might be for me

As if to demonstrate  that my faith in Apple is still not unfounded, Steve Jobs revealed the new iPad 2 at the Yerba Buena centre in San Francisco. The new version, which will sell at the same price as the old, is thinner, lighter, faster and has cameras both back and front.

That is all good stuff but the really clever part comes with the Smart Cover which attaches magnetically to the iPad. Not only does it protect the screen but it turns the iPad on and off and folds over to produce a stand to hold the iPad vertically or horizontally. Now that is what I call innovation.

You know, when the iPad was announced, I said it was not necessarily for me – well I might have to rethink that strategy now.

This weekend in Bigastro

Saturday March 5th at 8pm

The Department of Women along with the Association of Progressive Women Bigastro celebrates the International Day of Working Women, with a gala featuring the jazz  of M ª José García Soler along with a tribute to women in 2011.
Sunday 6th March at 6:30pm
THEATRE: LA COMEDIA DE LA OLLA DE PLAUTO, by the Theatre Group UMH Orihuela(Dramatic Adaptation by Adam Smith)

The poetry of everyday objects

There will be an exhibition of works by students from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Altea in the Auditorium from today until the 31st March.

That is good news

Although there was perhaps more space at the temporary location of the Bigastro weekly market, it somehow did not have the same atmosphere.

Now that the work on Calle Purisima is complete, the market is going to return there as of today.

A new initiative for the town

On Sunday 20th March Calle Purisima will be host to the first Classic Car show in Bigastro.

As if that was not enough, the bars, cafes and restaurants will be offering tapas in the street.

Altogether it sounds like a good way to spend a Sunday morning.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Many happy returns birthday boy!

You do need good weather and a decent size garden to have an outdoor party in early March.

Today we were blessed with blue skies and sunshine and Dave’s neighbours were kind enough to let the birthday boy use their garden.

When we first moved here, there were regular events like this when people got together. These days, such occasions are few and far between. This was one not to be missed though – a seventieth birthday party for one of the most popular residents on the estate.

We had a great time, especially Dave who won’t forget being 70 in a hurry! Many thanks to all the people who brought this together.

PS Dave got a new computer for his birthday (lucky bugger) which may take a little while to set up. By the time he reads this, I imagine the cake will have all gone!