Wednesday, August 31, 2011

It does not pay to experiment

When Pam and I were younger, you had to rely on your natural resources and maybe a pint or two of best bitter to keep you going at a party or dance. I remember they used to sell ProPlus tablets, which contained caffeine, to keep you alert but I never thought it worth the risk of taking anything like that. When my natural resources started to flag, I simply went home to sleep it off.

Nowadays though, young people rely on drugs and other means to keep themselves going at parties and dances. Ecstasy was apparently the main choice drug but it wasn’t cheap and had well documented side affects if your over did it.

In their search for something more affordable and perhaps more acceptable, youngsters have experimented with a wide variety of substances some of which have proved to be very dangerous.

Two 18-year-olds died and a 20-year-old fell seriously ill after they were given a drug brewed from the leaf of the thorn apple plant at a rave in the Madrid commuter town of Getafe on 21 August.

Seeds and leaves from the thorn apple, which is also known as devil's trumpet or devil's weed, are hallucinogenic and dangerous. Scientists warn that the whole plant, including its flowers, can seriously damage health. Side-effects include an increased pulse, muscular twitches, diarrhoea, convulsions, coma and death.

You have to remember that the thorn apple comes from the same family of plants as belladonna, otherwise known as deadly nightshade. The mayor of Getafe has ordered any thorn apple plants found growing in the wild to be destroyed.

That is a nasty looking rash

A mother complains that her daughter suffered a rash "because it has caught an infection in the Square"

There are signs outside the park in Bigastro which say “No Perros” and thankfully these seem to be heeded by dog owners taking their pets for a walk.

In the streets, most owners are responsible enough to clear up the mess that their dogs leave although we have witnessed a number of exceptions to this.

The real problem is of course stray dogs, those that have been let out to roam by themselves or those that have no owner. They wander wherever they wish, go to the toilet wherever suits them and there is nobody to clean up afterwards.

Dog excrement poses a serious health risk especially during this hot weather. Whilst adults will studiously avoid the little piles on the pavement, children are often too preoccupied to notice them.

I read this morning that mothers in San Isidro have stopped taking their children to play in the park because so many of them have suffered from nasty infections that could only be related to ​​excrement from stray dogs.

Local doctors in the town have advised parents to avoid the park because of this problem.

It isn't just dogs though that foul pavements, cats too are guilty.

Most domestic cats are trained by their owners to use some part of the garden as a toilet or to use a tray of cat litter indoors. Feral cats though just find somewhere convenient to dump their waste.

There is a feral cat that visits our garden who likes to use the large plant pots as her toilet. I’ve tried to stop her coming into the garden but that is a hopeless task, a determined cat will find away even if it means making death defying leaps.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Not off the hook yet

Not that long ago, the sport of cycling was under threat from all the allegations of doping laid against teams and riders. News of stage wins in the classic tours were overshadowed by the doping scandals that were hitting the headlines. Drastic measures had to be taken to ensure the continuation of the sport, those that were found guilty were banned and rigorous tests were carried out on every rider before and after races.

Thankfully, the measures taken seem to have worked and cleaned up the sport.

Now we read that the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) and world cycling's governing body UCI are appealing against the Spanish Cycling Federation's decision to acquit Alberto Contador of doping charges made during the second rest day of the Tour de France in 2010. You may recall that minute traces of the banned substance clenbuterol were found in his urine sample taken before the race began.

Clenbuterol is a banned fat-burning, muscle-building drug. The Spanish cycling federation accepted Contador's explanation that he had inadvertently consumed the drug in contaminated beef.

However, Wada regards clenbuterol as a zero-tolerance drug, although its rules do allow athletes to escape a sanction if they prove "no fault or negligence" on their part.

If the appeal is upheld, then Contador will be stripped of his 2010 Tour win and Andy Shleck, who trailed him by 39 seconds will be declared the winner. Contador will also face a two year ban from the sport.

The hearing will take place on the 21-24th November. I hope for his sake, that Contador is proved innocent. It would be sad for the sport if such a gifted rider was to be banned from taking part.

Manchester 13 - North London 3

First off Manchester City annihilated Tottenham Hotspurs on their own ground with an emphatic 5-1 victory and then Manchester United put the icing on the cake with a glorious 8-2 victory over Arsenal on their home territory.

The by line on the BBC website says it all:

“Manchester United inflicted total humiliation on Arsenal and their embattled manager Arsène Wenger with a brutal victory at Old Trafford.”

Wayne Rooney was United's inspiration with the sixth hat-trick of his Old Trafford career, but Ashley Young also made his mark with two stunning goals. Danny Welbeck, Nani and Park Ji-sung were the other scorers.

The goal margin sent United to the top of the league ahead of their rivals City but no matter, both teams and their fans had plenty to celebrate in Manchester last night.

PS Did I ever tell you I was born in Manchester? My granddaughter and I were born in the same hospital - the only true mancs in the family!

Next case

And so the file of cases against the former mayor of Bigastro, José Joaquín Moya, goes on. The judge, Carlos San Martín in Orihuela Court No 1 is now examining the complaint made by José Antonio Ricart for the PP and Carmen Brown for the Greens regarding the construction of a solar farm at La Pedrera.

In 2006 a concession was given to Ecomed Solar to build a solar farm on public land at the old stone quarry.Those rights were later transferred to the Bigastro based company Eurener.

Work started by clearing thousands of square metres of land and in the process destroying a forest of pine trees. Seprona were alerted along with the Department of Planning and the Environment. The former mayor revoked the license he had granted for the work but of course by then the damage had been done.

A number of complaints against the former mayor revolve around him taking short cuts in the proper legal processes of obtaining permission for his projects. In his indecent haste to get these projects off the ground, he would grant local permission and seek regional consent at a later stage. It was in those cases where regional consent was subsequently not granted that José Joaquín Moya came unstuck.

The former mayor would probably argue that many of his projects were for the benefit of the town. What he failed to understand is that you can’t just rip up an area of natural beauty and hope that everyone will be happy especially when they realise that the concession to do this would eventually be transferred to a company related to one of the socialist councillors.

Incidentally it is noticeable that Eurener, who expanded rapidly taking over several premises in the town to assemble solar panels, are now cutting back. That is neither good news for them nor for the town where they provided employment.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

It must be terrifying

As Hurricane Irene threatens to become the biggest storm to hit America in seven years, the top five deadliest and the top five costliest hurricanes to strike the US:

In spite of all the advances that man has made, we still have no way of controlling the forces of nature.

Tsunamis, flash floods, forest fires, earthquakes, persistent hot or cold weather, tornadoes and hurricanes still come and catch us out. All of these natural phenomena lead to destruction and loss of life and we are seemingly powerless to stop them.

I wonder, is there is any part of the world that is immune to natural disasters? I doubt it.

Americans on the eastern seaboard of the country are now facing the full force of the worst hurricane that many of them will have experienced, the worst to have hit America in seven years.

Of course they had plenty of warning as meteorologists tracked the progress from a tropical storm to a full blown hurricane. They knew day by day how it was moving and at what strength it was raging. Americans could see in pictures the damage that it was doing as it moved relentlessly towards their country.

When hurricane Irene hit the Carolina states it reeked havoc along the coast. The prediction was that the storm would then progress onwards and howl ashore east of New York on Long Island on Sunday morning. Multi-million pound homes in the upmarket holiday enclave of the Hamptons were expected to suffer serious damages.

Although estimated wind speeds have been reduced from 100mph to 55-70mph, the big fear for New York was water surges of four to eight feet driven ashore at a time when new moon tides were already high.

Drastic measures had to be taken. This was to be the first mandatory evacuation order in the city's history covered some of New York's most famous districts, including Battery Park on the southern tip of lower Manhattan, the financial district around Wall St and the beachfront haunt of Coney Island.

Many New Yorkers heeded the warning, packed up and left but of course there were those who ignored the warnings -determined to stay and see things out. The prospect for them is bleak because everywhere in New York is apparently closed down, there is no public transport and even the possibility of no electricity.

We can only spare a thought for our American cousins and for all those other people in the world who are facing natural disasters at this time. Thankfully it is not us.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The red weevil continues to spread

The Council for the Environment have found evidence of the red palm weevil in the old part of the town and the El Palmeral district of Orihuela. They are asking the public to let them know of any infected trees within a five kilometre radius so that they can either be treated or cut down and burnt to stop the weevil from spreading. Of course it is not easy to spray into the heart of a tree which is over 10 metres tall.

There is already evidence that trees in the El Escorratel area are infected.That is dangerously close to the the San Antón district at the foot of the mountain where there are about seven thousand Phoenix dactylifera palm trees. These were first brought to the province centuries ago by the Muslims and were used to provide shade for other crops. Some of the trees are 300 years old and are irrigated by the original infrastructure developed by the Muslims.

It would be an economic and environmental disaster if those palms were infected by the weevil which, in spite of intensive spraying, shows no sings of being eradicated.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Her beauty must be more than skin deep

There are some horrendous examples of where plastic surgery has gone badly wrong. Mostly they are confined to Hollywood film stars who are keen to keep their eternal youth but end up looking like freaks from a horror movie.

One of the worst examples of surgery gone wrong must be the 18th Duchess of Alba whose full name is Maria del Rosario Cayetana Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Francisca Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva. She possesses at least 44 noble titles and 150 hereditary ones and is said to be able to walk the length of Spain without ever leaving her property

As a young lady she was strikingly beautiful. It wasn’t until the duchess embarked on a program of plastic surgery and treatments that things started to turn “ugly”. Nose jobs, lip augmentations and lots of Botox have take the toll on her beauty. One can only imagine that she must feel that it was worth it.

Marriage and the duchess

The duchess married for the first time aged 21 in Seville Cathedral - in a celebration estimated to have cost the equivalent of 2 million euros in today’s money - to aristocratic naval officer Pedro Luis Martinez de Irujo y Artazcoz with whom she had six children.

The duchess was then widowed in 1972 and six years later scandalised Spain when she wed defrocked Jesuit priest Jesus Aguirre y Ortiz de Zarate who had been her confessor. He died in 2001.

16 October 2010: The Duchess of Alba and boyfriend Alfonso Diez Carabantes attend the wedding of Rafael Medina to Laura Vecino, in ToledoNow at 85 years of age, the duchess is to tie the knot for the third time after overcoming opposition from her family and even the King of Spain himself.

Earlier this month it emerged she had released her will, gifting her children’s inheritance early in a bid to win their support for the marriage to Alfonso Diez Carabantes, a 60-year-old civil servant in the department of social security, who has been her companion for at least three years.

The duchess has a personal fortune estimated at somewhere between €600m and €3.5 billion. She also owns 50,000 pieces of art, among them masterpieces by Goya and Velazquez, and a library of 18,000 rare books including a first edition of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, the fate of which are controlled by a foundation.

And now we are told that she has divided her properties between her five sons, one daughter and eight grandchildren, giving them each a palace and huge estates.

The gesture, along with a legal document in which Mr Diez renounces any claim to her wealth, appears to have quieted opposition to the marriage and she announced her plans to wed in a statement released to Spain’s !Hola! magazine on Tuesday.

"None of my friends will attend the marriage due to a lack of space,” she said, adding that photographs of the event would be distributed to all media.

My comment

The latest husband to be is a handsome man 25 years younger than the duchess. I have no doubt that she is a wonderful person and that he truly loves her but just imagine waking up to that face each morning. Quite frankly, I would not be repulsed, I would be scared!

Such a great pity that vanity led her down that path, the duchess would probably have aged well without the intervention of a surgeon.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Jobs quits his job

I am an Apple fanboy, I love everything about the company that produced the first serious computer that I ever owned. The fact that I now have a Microsoft Windows PC is because a lot of the programmes I own are PC versions. Recently, I was tempted to buy an iMac but it didn't make sense so I bought another Dell instead. Although Windows 7 is very good, it has taken me days to sort my new computer out and I still have a few issues with a couple of programs.

The guru of Apple has always been Steve Jobs who is the public face of the company. He is also one of the inspirations for Jonathan Ive, the Chingford-born designer who designed the sleek products which revolutionised the firm’s finances and the gadget marketplace.

Jobs, a Buddhist who experimented with the psychedelic drug LSD, founded the firm in his California garage 35 years ago.

In his early years, he dropped out of university, returned empty Coke bottles for the 5 cent deposit and walked "seven miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week".

Jobs has fought a long-running battle with pancreatic cancer and took a leave from his post in January and now he has announced his departure in a letter to Apple’s board of directors, saying: “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.”

Apple's chief operating officer, Tim Cook,has been named the new CEO of the company after Jobs strongly recommended him in a letter.

The news has caused a drop in the value of Apple shares by 7% and FoxConn Technology Co, a Taiwanese firm which makes the iPhone and iPad at a massive manufacturing campus in southern China, dropped by 2.3%.

Trust me, this is just a blip, Apple will bounce back. They make such great products which will ensure their success for many years to come. My daughters both have iPhones, I have an iPod Touch and now Pam has an iPad 2 which she just loves.

I just wish I had stuck with Apple all those years ago instead of making the switch to PC. It might have cost me more but would have saved an awful lot of time wrestling with Microsoft operating systems – solving problems rather than getting on with productive work.

Growing pot plants

This area of Spain must have near the perfect climate for growing cannabis plants outdoors. The plant apparently needs lots of sunshine and that is what it will get around here. No need for expensive light set ups and fancy hydroponic watering systems, with just a few pots, some decent compost and careful watering you can let nature take its course.

No doubt there are a quite a few people who grow plants for their own use however there are also some who make a business out of rearing a crop.

That is not hard to understand because the temptation to grow these lucrative plants must be strong. After all it is a way to make a quick buck and is obviously more financially rewarding than growing artichokes.

Case 1: In the San Anton district of Orihuela, police raided a house and found one hundred cannabis plants. The tip off came when neighbours got fed up with the number of clients, including young children, who would come to the area to buy the drugs.

Case 2: Last week the local police from Orihuela busted a house in Entre Naranjos where a cannabis plantation was growing behind a canvas screen.

Pam and I have never tried marihuana, the fact that it is illegal is enough to put us off. Anyone can inspect our garden or roof terrace and I can guarantee that, apart from some weird insects, they will find nothing untoward.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

We are paying for democracy big time

I have said this before but it bears repeating - in my opinion, many municipalities in Spain are just too small to be self run organisations. When less than 30 votes can make the difference between one party being in charge or another you have a crazy political situation. Decisions in Bigastro are made by a group as small as 7 politicians who hold control.

A mere handful of councillors can and have decided in the past upon lavish plans for new facilities in the town all paid for with borrowed money.

I remember going down to an exhibition in the newly built auditorium where a lot of money had been spent on a display showing us just what the council had achieved. The promotion also set out their further plans to develop the town including an aparthotel right on our doorstep.

Apart from the inconvenience of having a massive building project right by our house, we knew that there was no way that a hotel was going to succeed here. Who on earth was going to trundle up the country road from the town to stay and play golf? Just where in Bigastro are the tourist facilities that were going to attract these visitors? Even the main town square lacks the attraction of neighbouring towns. It has a road running through it and an apartment block with its bottom storey half bricked up, painted white and left unoccupied. The other half is an almost completed but still unoccupied showroom. At the other end of the square are two vacant plots on the corners surrounded by steel fencing. In any ones eyes, this is not what you would call an attractive centre to the town.

The main shopping street has been re cobbled and paved but is already looking as dingy in parts as the previous road surface and is a darn sight harder to walk on.

If Bigastro was like picture postcard Guadalest, things would be different but it isn’t thank goodness otherwise we would suffer the congestion that tourist towns suffer in the summer months. This is a sleepy town with an industrial estate where people work, proud of its traditions but still very local. It should have no pretentions to be a tourist town.

Now that Bigastro is in a mess, it is going to be hard to get out of it and again the size of the town mitigates against that happening anytime soon.

The mayor of Moia speaks of the death of the ayuntamiento, in the situation we face at the moment, that may not be such a bad thing.

The problem isn’t just in Bigastro

It is very easy to be led into thinking that yours is the only town that is facing financial ruin.

The truth is that many councils, following the May elections and a change of power are realising that they face a mountain of debt. Indeed, the Federation for Municipalities and Provinces estimates that 40 per cent of Spain's local governments are in serious economic trouble. Many but not all were socialist led and so the blame is put at Mr Zapatera’s socialist government for allowing the situation to arise.

Backed by seemingly limitless credit, town councils embarked on lavish spending sprees before the 2008 financial crisis, buying voters' affections by building brand new theatres, dance schools, and astro-turf football pitches in even the smallest of villages.

But now the party is over, the debts must be paid, and Spain's 8,115 municipalities are waking up with a colossal post-boom hangover.

Take the case of Moia where the mayor, Dionís Guiteras says, “we are broke”. "We managed to pay the council staff on July 31, but I don't know if we will be able to on August 31. We haven't got any money to pay the electricity company, so maybe the street lights will go out. All of our buildings could be for sale."

In a bleak warning to residents, Mr Guiteras even prophesied that, unless Moia's residents rapidly adopted money-saving measures, the town would not be able to bury their dead. "We cannot keep our heads in the sand," he said.

Moia, with a population of 5,800, owes €25 million – almost 400 per cent of its annual budget.

The money is owed to everyone from banks to office suppliers, local businesses and even musicians for the fiestas – some of whom have been waiting for payment since 2005.

The town is unable to refinance its debt, owing to the scale of the problem, nor can it raise taxes as these are already at national limits. Mr Guiteras fears the crisis could even spell the end of the ayuntamiento itself, with consequences for democracy in rural Spain.

"That's what I meant about not being able to bury the dead," he said. "We need to change our way of thinking and acting, or else the consequences really will be the bankruptcy of the ayuntamiento.

"Do we really need a dance school, a music school? Is it essential? Can we share facilities?”

The mayor says that they have cut  politician's salaries by 65 per cent, and turned off the lights illuminating the church. They are going through everything, shaving off costs wherever they can.

“Police will be soon driving around in smaller, cheaper cars,” Mr Guiteras added.  Even the chair upon which he sits in his office could be sold. The stunning town hall itself - an early 18th century mansion, built on top of the hill by a wealthy local businessman – could also go under the hammer.

"Why not? In the past, people used to sweep their own doorsteps when it snowed. But now, they wait for 'Papa Ayuntamiento' to come along and do it for them. We need to change this mentality."

Despite Mr Guiteras's crusading zeal, not all of Moia's problems can be solved with a change in mentality.

Indeed, a few minutes walk away form the town hall lies a €6 million reminder of the scale of the problem. Behind locked steel barriers is a brand new town medical centre, gathering dust since completion over a year ago. Piles of sand are left on the terrace, and broken glass scatters the forecourt.

The previous mayor built the centre, plus a three-storey underground car park, but upon completion the financial problems remained, and the property has been locked up ever since.

Several hundred miles south, near Murcia, police in Moratalla have been told to walk rather than use their patrol cars. The vehicles would not be much use, anyway, as the town's two petrol stations are owed €120,000 in town hall fuel bills and refuse to fill up municipal cars. The 120 council workers were finally paid last week, after a three month delay, but Moratalla's list of angry creditors goes on and on - the council owes local businesses €9 million in unpaid bills.

All that will sound very familiar to the people in Bigastro where we too have an auditorium, a sports centre and a new multi-storey car park built by the high spending socialist council during the boom years.  Like the health centre in  Moia, the car park in Bigastro remains closed.

The global recession is always blamed for all this but the fact is that Spain would have faced these problems anyway.

For one thing, builders thought there was a never ending queue of people waiting to buy properties here at the ever increasing prices that they charged. That myth has well and truly exploded and house prices have sunk down to the level that they should have been at anyway. Those of us who bought during the boom years got caught out and are seeing our house values plummet. Those who bought at the end of the boom came of even worse having made staged payments for part completed properties that they could not move into. The builders may be licking their wounds but they still have homes to go to and a lifestyle that many would be envious of. 

As Sr Guiteras concludes, "the problem is that Spain in many ways is still a Third World country – we joke that Africa begins when you cross the Pyrenees. We should have been living within our means, renting houses, driving old cars, developing slowly and securely. But we went crazy."

Paying through the nose

A recent survey has revealed that the British expatriates have to pay twice as much as many other citizens of other countries to renew their passports when residing in Spain. Currently, according to prices quoted on the official government website, it costs UK citizens who live in Spain 152 Euros to renew their passport. In addition they also have to cover the standard courier charge of around 13 Euros, which takes the total charge to 165 Euros, to renew a 10 year UK passport.

This compares unfavourably with the 61 Euros for Dutch passport renewals, 80 Euros for Irish passports and 89 for French. The only country which appears to charge more than the UK for a standard renewal of an adult passport according to the survey is Australia. Australian citizens living in Spain are required to pay 167 Euros to renew their official travel documentation. The country which offers the cheapest passport renewals is South Africa which charges a very affordable and reasonable 41 Euros.

A spokesman for The British Embassy in Madrid says: “It is Government policy that the costs of consular services overseas, which includes issuing replacement passports to British nationals resident abroad, should be borne by the beneficiaries of the service and not subsidised by UK taxpayers. The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) - part of the Home Office - sets the fees for British passports issued in the UK and issues approximately six million passports every year to British nationals living in the UK.

“The Foreign Office - on behalf of the IPS - issues passports to British nationals living abroad. It issues fewer than 500,000 passports a year through seven Passport Processing Centres around the world, and must recover the full costs of issuing through the passport fee. Although this is an efficient operation, it cannot match the economies of scale that the IPS musters in issuing over 10 times as many passports in the UK.”

Other countries, such as Holland, South Africa and Canada, currently subsidise the passport service for their expatriates, thereby making it cheaper than the service which is offer to UK citizens who live in Spain.

Monday, August 22, 2011

La Vuelta passes through Guardamar del Segura

IMG_3547 IMG_3552
Skoda cars were in abundance The medic ready to give assistance
IMG_3557 IMG_3562
The breakaway leader from Team Lotto Right behind him, an Andalucia rider and a Rababank rider
IMG_3566 IMG_3574
The main peloton headed by a cyclist from the Radio Shack team followed by a couple of boys from the Katusha team and one of the Sky boys

The tail end charlies just coasting along behind the rest.
image What surprised us was the number of support vehicles that preceded and followed the race itself.

The Guardia Civil were out in force checking the route over and over again before the race arrived.

Then of course there were the race officials, the press, medics and a long train of team cars with spare bikes, wheels etc.

This meant that the entourage took a lot longer to pass through than the cyclists.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

La Vuelta returns

If like me, you missed the Vuelta a Espana last year when it came to Orihuela, then you have a chance to see it this year.


This is part of the route for the stage tomorrow from La Nuncia to the Playas de Orihuela.


and this is the itinerary which shows where you can catch sight of the cyclists and the approximate timings.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Spare a thought for the cows

My father always claimed that there was no such thing as a poor farmer although he said many would cry poverty - I had no reason to doubt him.

In countries like Britain the truth is that, without farm subsidies, many farmers would now be out of business because there is a big difference between the cost of production on a farm and the price that we pay for farm produce. We all want staple products like our milk, eggs, and butter at the lowest possible prices and supermarkets know this. It is companies like Tesco, Asda and Sainsburys that determine the market value of the dairy produce we buy. 

The same problem exist in Spain where farmers in the Valencian region have been hard hit by the economic crisis. They say that, whilst the cost of production continues to rise, the price at market either remains the same or in some cases drops and they blame the government for not providing a solution to this dilemma.

The farmers here do have a valid point. Take the case of livestock: whereas the cost of feed has risen by 35% over the last ten years, the amount farmers get per litre of milk has remained the same. That is because the price is controlled by multinationals who can determine the price at whatever level they wish.

The consequence of all this is that there are now 257,882 fewer cattle in the region than there were ten years ago and of course fewer farms holding them. That means that the milk and other dairy produce we buy comes from elsewhere which means it has to be transported. Where ever that is, it must be dirt cheap to take into account transport costs. Never mind the Valencian farmers, imagine how poor the ones are who supply us with our daily pints.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A tow truck on the coast

Parking anywhere near a beach is difficult in the holiday season especially in August when visitors are at a peak. For those who live near a beach it can be a nightmare each summer as people block the access to their houses. They also block access reserved for emergency vehicles and for buses and taxis.

Up to now, there has been nothing that could be done to remove the illegally parked cars but that is about to change because by this September there will be a municipal tow truck on the coast and a pound where the cars can be taken. So if you park across a driveway or in a reserved spot in future, you may return to find your car gone. It will then be a long walk to reunite yourself with your vehicle.

Of course, it would have been so much better if people had respected the no parking sings in the first place but then that is human nature. Some people are just plain selfish.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Phew - a lot photos for you to see

Here are the links to my albums from this year’s fiesta in case you missed any of these:-


Crazy cars:

Infant parade:

Tapeo/ Gastronomic day:

Floral offering:

Concert for San Joaquin:

Comparsas parade:

Solemn procession:

The final procession

After all the fun and partying, last night was the time to give thanks to the patron saint. In time honoured tradition, San Joaquin was carried around the town accompanied by the Fiesta Queens, the members of the Council, dignitaries from the church and thousands of devotees carrying candles.

Once the saint was safely back to the church, there was a grand firework display. Finally, San Joaquin was returned in to the church where he will remain until next August when the party will begin again.

This is now the time when the town will dust itself off, people will catch up with much needed sleep and many will go on holiday. After all the hours I have spent processing photographs, it will give me some time to catch up on some gardening.

Hopefully, my photographs of the Fiesta for San Joaquin 2011 will provide the town’s people with some happy memories of the last 9 days and perhaps more important, will reunite those who no longer live in the town with the Bigastro they once knew.

You can see my photos from the last night here

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A kind thought

I have just been sent this email from someone who signs himself Reyes in response to my photos of the parade last night.

Un gran trabajo, enhorabuena es usted un cronista de Bigastro digno de ser reconocido por todos. Es encomiable su labor desinterasada, máxime cuando es una persona que no es natural de este municipio y lo hace como si fuera usted un bigastrense de toda la vida. Lo admiramos por ello. Saludos.

Those are very kind words, thank you so much. You know, like may of my English neighbours, I feel as proud to be a part of the town as those who were born here.

I’m glad you like my photos, I promise to keep them coming!

Un poco tarde

The parade of comparsas might have been late starting (actually very late) but once they got going, they arrived thick and fast.

See my pictures here. I know there are a lot of photos to go through but trust me, it is worth waiting until the end to see the Moors and Christian groups.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Two hours of bliss

They might have started the concert for San Joaquin last night half an hour late but by the time we had got part way through the programme, we would have forgiven them for being an hour late. It was a flawless performance of the most enjoyable music you could wish to listen to.

In the first part the band played a selection of four tunes, some of which were familiar and others new to us.

In the interlude we had a comedy sketch performed by some of the local talent and then came the second part of the concert.

The choir went to the back of the stage to accompany the three soloists, Susanna Vardayan, Susi Gálvez Mesples and Juan Antonio Martin Armas in a delightful selection of songs.

We finished in the traditional fashion by singing the Hymn of Bigastro. 

For those who were unfortunate enough not to be there here are some of my photos for you to enjoy.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Good food and great entertainment

We’ve recommended this restaurant to others and to show that we stand by that, Pam and I went to La Herradura just outside Los Montesinos last night for a meal.

Fridays and Saturdays they host a flamenco show as you will see from the pictures below. The last time we went to watch this spectacular, the service was slow however, last night it was first class.

The restaurant has both an a la carte menu and several menu’s de la noche ranging from 12 Euros to 19 including a vegetarian menu at 16 Euros.

One thing to be aware of, if you order fish, even on the a la carte menu, you will not be over faced with a plateful of food. If you are hungry (actually I mean very hungry) then the lamb or the ribs from the 19 Euro menu will more than fill you. It is the same with the starters, the Carpaccio of prawn is a wonderful dish but it won't fill you up.

image If you are feeling flush, then a kilogramme of cigalas (crayfish) will set you back 65 Euros. I’m not sure though that anyone could actually eat that many cigalas in one sitting.

And the dancers:

A day of convivencia

Yesterday was the first of the three days when you could enjoy a tapas and a beer on Calle Antonio Gálvez. First task, pick the bar where you wanted to buy from and then choose your food. There was plenty of tempting dishes from a humble hamburger or a portion of tortilla to frogs legs or the local speciality – meatballs (ask for pelotas).

Be aware that eating on the street like this is more of a social event than a dining experience because the rations are small. Think more of a snack that a meal.

Round the corner at the Plaza de la Concordia you could have had your food and a beer for free. There was a long queue though and to get in first you would have had to have stood for about three quarters of an hour. The reward was a plate of paella along with meatballs and other Spanish delicacies followed by another plate of cakes and pastries from the British table. The patient ones were rewarded later on with large slices of very refreshing water melon.

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See my other photos here.

If you missed the tapeo yesterday, never mind you can pop down today or tomorrow, meet a few friends, grab a beer and enjoy some local food.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Justice prevails

I am pleased to read in the papers that a large number of those who were looting in the recent riots in Britain have now been caught, remanded in custody and in some cases already sent to jail.

Undoubtedly, the majority will have previous records of bad behaviour, some may have even been convicted before. There are though some strange exceptions, people from wealthy homes, students who are well educated and those with good jobs and career prospects. It might have seemed like a good idea at the time to join others in looting shops but now they are paying the price with jail sentences of up to six months, eviction from council homes and perhaps more important for them, the shame that they have brought to themselves and their families.

The sad fact is, the more experienced, more street savvy looters will be difficult to catch. They would have been careful to wear masks to cover their identity and would not have boasted about what they were up to on Facebook. It is the more innocent (if you can call them that) ones who will be paying the price for their night of fun.

Some big infants!

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What a lot of fun that was! The infant parade is such a popular part of the fiesta.

It is hard to imagine children in England dressing up to take part in a parade never mind adults. Great credit to the people of Bigastro for taking so much trouble and thanks to those who posed for me.

I know there aren’t many children in these pictures but if you go to my album you should be able to spot a few!

Friday, August 12, 2011

The dreaded council tax bill

It is that time of year when we expect to receive our council tax bills from SUMA - the organisation that collects monies on behalf of town halls in this area. For the first year or so after you buy a new property, you don’t get a bill at all because it takes awhile for the system to produce the valuation of your property upon which the tax is based.

The first bill we received seemed way too high compared to those of our neighbours so we disputed the valuation of our property and got it reduced substantially. Since then our annual bill has hovered at just over the 230 Euros per year mark.

Yes, my British readers you did read that right -230 Euros per year (at current rates a shade over £200).

I know that many of you will paying near enough that amount per month. However, if you consider that is a paltry amount to pay let me tell you that, in nearby villages, the annual amount can be as low as 60 Euros– about the same price you would pay to fill the tank of your car with diesel.

There may be some things that are as expensive or even dearer than they are in Britain but council tax is not one of them!

Dead fish in the Segura

As an ex-angler, who used to enjoy sitting on a river bank dangling a maggot into the water to see what I could catch, I take a passing interest in fishy stories.

My friend Pete, who lives in Liverpool, told us about the dead fish that they had found in Walton Hall Park lake. Why the fish had died was a bit of a mystery. The most likely cause was thought to be a change in atmospheric conditions which had lead to a growth in oxygen sapping organisms.

At the time, I told Pete that finding dead fish in the river Segura was a regular occurrence, especially in summer when water levels are low and there is insufficient flow to oxygenate the water. There can also be problems caused by pesticides leaching into the water from nearby agricultural land.

True to form, I now read that over a tonne of dead fish have been discovered floating in the River Segura in Guardamar by members of the Friends of the Wetlands in Southern Alicante (AHSA) who were monitoring birds in the early hours of the morning. Around the same time last year there was a similar occurrence, which was caused by the spillage of pesticides, according to AHSA.

“The CHS (Hydrographic Confederation of Segura) should act more forcefully to prevent a recurrence of events like this that endangers the fragile recovery of the mistreated River Segura,” said Sergio Arroyo, AHSA president. The mullet and carp fish bodies have been removed and research is underway to determine the cause of their deaths.

The CHS are considering two main hypothesis: one is that the high temperatures in recent days “decreased the oxygen in the water causing death by asphyxiation.” The second is that it may be due to the agricultural use of compost or some kind of disinfectant.

What happens is that, due to the drainage of irrigated land, the levels of toxins in the water can become concentrated when there is little flow in the river causing mortality of the fish.

Let the bus take the strain

In England people joke about getting a free bus pass when they reach retirement age. That is partly because public transport is so expensive there especially in places like London.

If you lived in Torrevieja, you didn't need to wait for your 65th birthday to get free transport because everyone got tickets to allow them free rides on the buses. Sadly the system was open to abuse and so the council are now introducing the “Citizen Card” at a cost of 35 Euros per person per year.

For what is in effect a token amount (barely enough to cover the cost of administering the card), people who live in the town can travel 365 days a year for as many journeys as they wish.

As an added bonus, the town hall are planning to incorporate access to the Municipal Leisure Centre, the Macrodicoteca and several museums to the Citizen Card so it will represent great value to those who register for it.

Of course, pensioners will be able to reclaim the 35 Euros so for them it will all be free.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Meltdown in Britain

There are times when you feel proud to be British, now though is not one of those moments. The scenes on television and the pictures in the newspapers of the riots taking place throughout the country just make me feel sick.

It apparently all started in London but has quickly spread to other parts of the country. I don’t suppose many of those involved now could even tell you what kicked everything off. All they know is that there is a free for all going on in a city nearby with a chance to steal something and torch a car or two.

Last night there was serious disorder in a number of towns and cities across England, including Nottingham, Liverpool, Leeds, Bristol, Manchester, Wolverhampton, Leicester, West Bromwich, Gloucester and Birmingham. And from what I have seen the two aspects of this current wave of crime seem to revolve around breaking into shops and looting and setting fire to cars and buildings. Although there is something to be gained from looting, I can’t see any purpose in setting fire to cars and buildings.

From the pictures I have seen, the looters seem to be mainly males, some as young as nine years of age. Most are wearing hooded tops, some with scarves or balaclavas on their faces to protect their identity. However, a substantial number are either bold enough or stupid enough to go out showing their faces to the CCTV cameras. Hopefully they will all be identified and brought to justice in due course.

I have seen pictures of youths carrying arms full of clothes and boxes containing high value electrical goods and read of some even taking televisions and other large items. I even read of one lot who were trying their new trainers on to make sure they got the right size and then popping them into a store bag to take home – that is just cheeky.

Now, just imagine if your own son came home with a brand new pair of trainers or a new DVD player in a box, would you not question him? I tell you, I would have no compunction in marching him straight down to the police station and having him arrested.

In all this, I blame the parents as much as the children because after all, they were the ones who bought them the Blackberry phones that they use to communicate with and they were the ones who allowed them to buy hooded sweatshirts to hide under. These parents clearly have no idea where their children are or what they are up to. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that they actually condone their offspring’s actions.

I feel dreadfully sorry for the vast majority of law abiding decent folks who are suffering at the hands of the mindless minority and are seeing their lives ruined by the destruction and mayhem that they are causing. In the end, it is cash strapped Britain that will have to pick up the cost of all this. The country’s reputation will, once again, be in tatters and all of us will pay for that.

The Fiesta Programme continues


Between 11.00 am and 5pm:- THE GREAT CHILDREN'S FAIR
Bouncy castles, cycle-karts, ball pool, tent, workshops, human table football, mini soccer field and basketball, sack races ... and many
more games. All near the the Infant school, "Bigastrín."


At 8pm:- THE CHILDREN’S PARADE SPECTACULAR leaves from "Bigastrín."

11:30pm:- OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE FAIR IN THE “PARQUE HUERTO DEL CURA” Dancing with the DISCOMOVIL, DJ: Sergio Arques, Nino and Sergio.


12:00am:- the tractor will tour the streets distributing very cold beer.

12.00am to 4pm:- the VII Gastronomic Event in the Plaza de la Concordia and tapas in the street on Calle Antonio Gálvez

7:30pm:- the Presentation of comparsas otherwise known as the “wet parade”

At Midnight:- music to either listen or dance to selected by Sergio Arques in the Parque Huerto del Cura

At the same time in the Eurener car park there will be a disco with music selected by DJ.: Garra, Melal, Chato

At 3am:- the traditional fireworks in shopping trolley mayhem on Calle General Bañuls



Midday:- the tractor will tour the streets again distributing very cold beer.

Between 12.00am and 4pm there will be tapas again on Calle Antonio Galvez

At 5:30pm:- FOAM PARTY on Calle Acequia

At 8:30pm:- THE FLORAL OFFERING Comparsas, the queens and townsfolk are invited to participate in this traditional and beautiful act of offering flowers to our Patron Saint accompanied by Union Musical Bigastro. Departure from the Infant School "Bigastrín"

8:30pm:- OUTDOOR MASS The Mass will be sung by the John Paul II Choir from Guardamar. Plaza de la Constitution.

11pm:- A CONCERT by the MUSICAL UNION Bigastro under the baton of chief conductor D. Tomas Rodriguez Gomez including performances by surprise guests.

Midnight:-MUSIC and DANCE in the park with : HAMMER, FUERA DE COBERTURA and ZODIAC.

AND FOR THE YOUNG - A MACRODISCO located in Parking Eurener with music selected by DJ.: Garra, Melal, Chato


10am:- MASS. In honour of the Virgin of the Assumption

Midday:- the tractor will tour the streets for the last time distributing very cold beer.


Between 12.00am and 4pm a final chance to take tapas on Calle Antonio Galvez

At 7:30pm:- THE MOORS AND CHRISTIANS kick off the Grand Comparsas Parade

At 8:30pm The fabulous parade of Comparsas along with the Infant, Juvenile and Third Age Queens


Followed at 2am by a great festival, enlivened by music selected by Sergio Arques

1am FOR THE YOUNG, A MACRODISCO -Located in Parking Eurener with music selected by DJ.: Nino, Gustavo, Claw


9:30am:- MASS

11.30 am :- Musical Parade by the Musical Union Bigastro accompanying the Queens to the Church of Our Lady of Bethlehem

12.00am :- MASS Given by, D. José Antonio Moya Grau, pastor of the parish of San Vicente Ferrer de Orihuela. The Mass will be sung by the Choir "MANUEL MOYA".

8:30pm:- Procession led by our pastor D.Aurelio Ferrandiz and local authorities to honour San Joaquin, with participation by the Queens; Infant, Youth and Third Age and musical accompaniment by the Musical Union of Bigastro.

At the end of the procession there will be a GREAT FIREWORK DISPLAY by the prestigious Pyrotechnics Ferrandez.

At 1am: A GALA SHOW with singing and dancing directed and coordinated by Ofelia Gálvez, Carlos Ballester along with many helpers.

DISCOMOVIL UNTIL 7 AM with DJs. : Gustavo, Melal and Nino.

FINALLY : Sleep!!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

A new feature

Thanks to the very clever people at the State Agency for Meteorology, I can now show you - live - the next three days weather forecasts for Bigastro in the sidebar of this blog.


The lines on the chart show the information you need.

The first line uses symbols to show the general conditions.

Then the minimum/maximum temperatures

The next line shows the probability of rain.

Following this we have minimum/maximum relative humidity

The arrows show the wind direction

Finally we have the wind speed in kilometres per hour.

The disappearing sand

The beach area north of the mouth of the River Segura at Guardamar has lost between 60 and 70 meters in the last 55 years according to a study by a scientist at the Coastal Ecology Institute of El Campello . This loss of over the 1,700 meters stretch of beach amounts to a decrease of 90,300 meters square in area.

The study, conducted in collaboration with Caja Madrid, discusses coastal erosion on the beaches most representative of the province and its goal has been to implement an environmental monitoring system to establish a starting point for this type of information .

The study also revealed that the stretch of coast on the North Beach of Babylon (Guardamar) has lost, since 1989, an average of 15-20 meters in width - an approximate area of 72,500 square meters.

The main problem for this area are the waves which  easily penetrate inland causing the collapse of many houses on the dunes.The origin of the problem may be alterations of the river Segura, which causes a reduction of sediment to the sea and consequently to the beach. The study also shows that the occupation of the dunes, south of the mouth of the river, prevents the recirculation of sand between the dunes and the beach, promoting erosion by the impact of waves. Moreover, the configuration of the breakwater at the mouth of Segura alters the longitudinal transport of sediments in north-south direction and south-north, caused by waves.

Another cause of the problem may be that the reduced flow of water favours the intrusion of the river Segura into the sea and with it the transport of marine sediment upstream which in turn reduces the beaches of the area.

The good news is that the southern part of the beach at Guardamar where it creates dunes allows the exchange of sand between the dunes and beach. This beach  has remained virtually unchanged over the past 55 years.

Pictures for you to see

The August Fiesta is a busy period for me. Processing the photos I take and then uploading them is a time consuming job. Phew, I have now got the first two albums finished for you to look at.

For my album of the Coronation click here and for my album of the Coches Locos click here.

Monday, August 08, 2011

A great party even though the stars were missing

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Gotcha This young lady was after a photo of the crowd down the hill.

Yesterday morning was the competition for crazy cars - made without engines these were to be propelled by gravity down one of the hills in the town.

I’m told there were 15 “cars” on the start line, many of which would have never made it past the first corner. Those that did though were really very good - I'll post an album later.

So, with only a few cars coming down the hill what was there to do but party. The band were half way up the hill entertaining us, there were refreshment stops where you could buy a beer for a Euro and the Moors group came out in force.

Just to keep the crowds happy, the cars came down twice – the second time for a speed trial.

I met up with a family whose photo I had taken early in the year. They could see I was having to stand in the sun so they offered me water and then insisted I had a beer. The wife was even prepared to fetch me a beach umbrella to shade me but I thought that was going too far.

By way of saying thanks for their kindness, here they are again.


Sunday, August 07, 2011

Our own royal Manns

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In spite of the obvious signs of cutbacks, last night’s coronation ceremony was just as delightful as any that we have seen in Bigastro.

It was more than a pity that last year’s Third Age King and Queen refused to take part for political reasons but that did not spoil the occasion for Dave and Barbara Mann. They received their sashes, crown and cane from the President of the Third Age Association instead.

Don’t you think they looked regal?

Saturday, August 06, 2011

A crime wave hits the coast!

In the local Spanish press there are reports that Local Police on the Orihuela coastline arrested ten people in one week. Four arrests were made during the weekend, while the other six were made during the week.

The headline case was a British citizen aged 64 who was arrested for molesting a minor. The incident, which was witnessed by several people, occurred at La Florida urbanisation.

Another Brit, this time 31 years old, was arrested for stealing a mobile phone worth 450 Euros in the shopping mall at Villamartin and a 21 year old was caught breaking into a car on the Avenida Las Adelfas at Campoamor.

Finally, we read that a Ukrainian and a Lithuanian were arrested for tampering with a phone box near the centro comercial Flamenca Beach. The other arrests were for people growing cannabis plants in a greenhouse out on the campo.

Apart from the case of the 64 year old Brit, these are all relatively minor crimes which would hardly warrant a column inch in Liverpool newspapers. It is perhaps a measure of how safe it is living in this area that such great store should be made of ten arrests in one week.

The war of words continues

Aurelio Murcia hounded both of the socialist mayors in the press when they were in office. Now that the tables are turned, it is Raúl Valerio Medina’s time to do the same to Murcia.

Medina came back on the announcement of cuts in staffing at the pre-school Bigastrin and quoted the amount of the Government grant that the council will receive. He went on to say that the minimum requirement would be for one teacher and one assistant in each classroom and finally said that to restrict the applications to people from the town was illegal (I would think he is probably right about that).

Murcia now says that he is, at the very least, curious to know how the previous mayor knows the details of the grant from the Department of Education which would infer that he still has precise information about the town’s bank accounts.

Murcia goes on to explain that the law only requires one teacher per classroom of children at Bigastrin. He says that there is no stipulation made about the number of assistants.

Finally the spokesman for the coalition, Aurelio Murcia, says that instead of obstructing the work of the PP and the UPLC which he says is transparent and legal, Medina should tell the people of Bigastro about the economic situation that his party left the town in and why he made decisions which were detrimental to Bigastro, when he was mayor.

Murcia says he could start by explaining to parents why, whilst they were charged for catering at Bigastrin, the company that provided the food are owed 103,265 Euros which includes 11,203 Euros in interest.

It is of course the right and proper for the opposition to oppose but, given the state of the town after 28 years of socialist rule, I think Medina should be a bit circumspect about going to the press unless he is a) very clear of the facts and b) certain no blame could be attributed to the his former administration. If I was him I would, for the moment at least, restrict my comments and criticisms to council meetings and steer clear of announcements to the press. From past experience, whether it is right or wrong, in a “war of words” Murcia generally has the last say.

Plans for this weekend


At 7:30 pm last years fiesta queens along with this year’s will assemble and accompanied by the la Unión Musical de Bigastro will parade to the park.

At 9pm this year’s queens (infant, junior and third age king and queen) will be crowned in the Parque Huerto del Cura. The opening will be in the hands of Encarnación Grau Grau, Psycologist Director of the Centre Specific for the Mentally Ill, Camp del Turia (Valencia.

This year I am going to try and find a place where I can take my photos without upsetting the audience!

At midnight the disco in the park will feature DJs Garra, Sergio Arques and Chato


The third competition for Coches Locos will take place at about 11am. Gravity powered creations will race down the hilly Calles Obispo Vitorio, José Nieto and Luís Gálvez  hopefully stopping at the bottom!

Friday, August 05, 2011

The Official Programme

Scan10025The book for this year’s fiesta is available now from the Town Hall.

Packed full of information about what is happening on each day, it is essential reading for those of you who want to enjoy this year’s fiesta.

Remember it all starts off with the coronation of the fiesta queens on Saturday including Barbara and David Mann* from Villas Andrea as third age king and queen.

* I notice that they have made David and Barbara a little more Spanish by putting an accent on the first “a” in Barbara and giving David the middle name Ernesto.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

A very risky game

Running of the bulls as part of a festival takes place in quite a few towns in Spain - not just in Pamplona. It is a highly dangerous “game” that results in many accidents each year.

Last Saturday a man was gored and died in the village of Rafaelbunyol, north of Valencia. It was said that he was drunk at the time and was provoking the bull with a pink umbrella so maybe it could be argued that he only had himself to blame.

However, we now read that a 74 year old man, Felix de Luis Morentin was gored in the neck by a young bull whilst sitting in his holiday home. The bull had smashed through wooden fencing erected to steer the animals through the old streets of the town during the early morning runs of the annual fiesta, causing panic amongst spectators, who ran for their lives.

The agitated beast then charged into a quiet courtyard and through the wooden door where it encountered the unfortunate Mr Morentin, a resident of San Sebastian who returned to the village where he grew up each year to celebrate the annual fiesta. He apparently died instantly.

The mayor of Lodosa described the incident as a “tremendous misfortune”.

If bullfighting is now been described as out-dated and dangerous, then running with the bulls must surely be regarded as medieval and verging on suicidal. Call me a coward if you will but you would not find me within a 100km of a bull run.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

An update from Diane

Hi everyone,
I have been in contact with the Town Hall and the timescale this year for San Joachim is slightly different. The Gastronomy day for 2011 will be Saturday 13th August. We have been asked if we want to contribute again and on your behalf I have said yes. Apparently this year's distribution of food will be different. People will no longer be allowed to choose or take from the table - the organisers have said that to speed up to process and ensure less wastage and people who get nothing now get something to eat, plates will be handed out with food already on them.
The theme this year for us will be all sweet items - cakes, pastries, tarts, pies, biscuits.
If you would like to contribute all offers will be gratefully received. I have told the organisers what we are offering and as I will be on holiday from 5th to 16th August, Barbara and Anne will be coordinating on the day. If you cannot take your food down to the tables yourself please make sure that either Barbara or Anne has your contribution at their house by 12.30 p.m. so that they can take all the food down to set up the tables. Thanks.
I personally will be going to Iceland for my contribution, so if you don't feel like cooking in this heat feel free to do the same (or to any other shop that sells British products)!!
I thank you all in advance for your contributions and help with serving on the day.
Have a great day!

Going to Iceland is a good suggestion Diane which I am sure we will follow.

PS Can you please pass this on to your neighbours who may not have an internet connection or who may not read this blog.

The end of free lunches

In Greece and in Portugal people are up in arms about the savage cuts that the governments are having to impose but what choice do they have?

It is the same here in Bigastro where we will either have to face cuts in spending or dig into our pockets to pay for things that were previously provided free.

Take the fiesta which starts this Saturday.

In Molins each family is expected to contribute 70 Euros towards the fiesta there. Of course Molins does not have its own council to subsidise the event and so it is the only way they can afford to run it. People here in Bigastro might argue that we pay local taxes to cover such things, well so do the people who live in Molins. In the past we’ve had free food, free beer and free entertainment during the fiestas. Damn it, if we are cheeky enough, we can even get a printed programme for the fiesta free of charge.

We also enjoy free concerts in the Auditorium. Some would argue that those performed by local talent come at no cost to the council but that is not true. There are costs involved in heating (or cooling) the building, then there is the lighting, the caretaking and later the cleaning to pay for.

I believe that the days when we get all these things for free should be over. If we want fiestas and concerts then we should be prepared to pay for them. If it is a choice between us paying or council employees being made redundant then I know which we should choose.

Oh yes and before I am finished, the principles of CItta Slow are good for the town to adopt but not if they cost money!

Responsible owners

You know we Brits blame Spaniards for bringing their unwanted pets up to Villas Andrea in the hope that we will take pity on them and it is probably true.

A Spaniard who reads my blog, says that it is common knowledge that the way to get rid of a dog or cat is to take them to an urbanisation where foreigners live. He goes on to say that the laws in Spain protecting animals are very strict and if we see people leaving unwanted pets then we should report them to the police.

My reader explains that he has two mongrel dogs and a cat which he found in the street. Like any responsible owner who has no intention of breeding, his animals are sterilised.

A legacy of debt

It isn’t just Bigastro where a new council is facing a huge legacy of debt.

Interestingly, whereas in Bigastro it is the PP who are inheriting debt from a long standing Socialist council, in Orihuela it is a Socialist council that are facing a mountain of debt from a long standing PP council.

The new first Deputy Mayor of Orihuela, Antonia Moreno (PSOE), said at a news conference yesterday that the City is completely drowned by debt "inherited" from the former government team.  She says that the bills left in the drawers by the previous Mayoress, Monica Lorente (PP), amount to 17 million spent outside the city’s budget.  Add to that another 15 million in unpaid claims for payments to suppliers, plus another 58 million owed ​​to the banks including interest on loans. In total, she claims that the city faces 90 million euros of debt.

In both Bigastro and in Orihuela, the previous councils were nearly returned to office. Imagine the situation in four years time if either had been successful. I reckon there is something to be said for a change of council and certainly mayor at regular intervals. There is also something to be said for a bit more transparency about the state of affairs in council budgets.

Hard times make for harsh decisions

Faced with its huge budget deficit, the Council in Bigastro have no choice but to make cuts in staffing expenditure and whilst this may not be palatable, there are no obvious alternatives open to them.

I see that Bigastro is now advertising for staff for the pre-school Bigastrin which takes children from birth to three years old. The Councillor for Education, Aurelio Murcia explains that they will be cutting the number of staff from the present 21 but doesn’t say by how many. He does however assure parents that the service offered will be the same as before and goes on to say that fees will be reduced from 110 to 90 Euros per month. Initially the fees from parents will finance the school but then, the Council will use grants from the Department of Education to subsidise costs.  

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Pick up a pet

It seems that it is not just the expertise of Caroline and Joop that the animal shelter in Orihuela has recruited. They also have the assistance of UK dog whisperer Peter Singh to help out with dog re-homing.

Peter, who specialises in dog psychology can help owners to understand and communicate with their dogs. He will be on hand at the adoption day on Wednesday 3rdAugust to offer free advice to would-be owners about the needs of the various dogs and will help match dogs to owners.

Peter said: “When visiting the centre I met so many amazing dogs. All of them have so much to give and anyone wishing to take one of these dogs home will basically be walking out of the shelter with the best friend they will ever have. I was truly moved at how wonderful these dogs are.”

The shelter is open for adoptions most days but Peter and English and German speaking volunteers will be available to help with adoptions on the special adoption day from 11.00am until 3.00pm at the shelter in Partida Lo Arques, San Bartolomé, close to the Vega Baja Hospital – from the ITV station head toward the mountain, turn left at the second roundabout and follow the signs.

Visit and click under Donde Estamos for a map. Or email and state where you are coming from to get written directions.

The shelter's normal public opening hours for adoptions are Monday to Friday 10.00am to 3.00pm, Saturday 10.00am to 2.00pm. Adoptions cannot be finalised on Sundays but dogs can be viewed between 10am and 2.00pm. More details of Peter Singh's work and the services he offers can be found at

Monday, August 01, 2011

Helping a worthy cause

It is a sad fact that residents regularly find abandoned animals on our estate, in most cases without an identification collar and without chipping.

Quite a few of our neighbours have taken in these stray animals and looked after them but there are only so many cats and dogs that people can care for.

Fortunately, there are a number of organisations that will look after stray animals but of course there are limits and it can be hard to find homes for them once they have been taken into care. It is also difficult to find volunteers with the time and inclination to look after these unwanted animals not to mention the money needed to feed them etc.


Caroline and Joop who live on Calle Escocia at Villas Andrea tell me that they volunteer every day at the Centro Protección Animales de Orihuela, situated in San Bartolomé.

The centre, which was opened in May of this year, currently looks after about 200 dogs, 30 cats and 2 horses. That sounds like a lot of work for just five people.

In order to raise funds to set up new runs and play areas for the dogs as well as caring for the cats and horses, the centre is hosting a barbecue at the Black Seven House between Los Montesinos and Algorfa (see poster for details).

At 10 Euros per head for a three course meal it sounds like good value and of course proceeds will go to a very worthwhile cause.

PS I think they probably mean that the singer Phil Shaper is inimitable! Whatever, I’m sure he will be good.

I hope the BBQ and any other events they have planned are a great success. All kudos to Caroline and Joop.

Bullfighting - a dying art

You will recall that the Catalan regional government voted to ban bullfighting in the northeastern region last July, by 68 votes to 55, with nine abstentions, on the grounds it is cruel and outdated. The vote was held after campaign group Prou! (Enough! in Catalan) collected 180,000 signatures in favour of a ban. Anti-bullfighting organisations hoped that the Catalan example would be be copied in some of Spain's 16 other autonomous communities.

However, critics of the ban said it was motivated more by Catalan nationalism and a desire to assure political independence from Madrid than by a genuine desire to outlaw the tradition.

The debate over bullfighting has now been reignited following the government’s decision to recognise the spectacle as "an artistic discipline and cultural product", a move which has delighted enthusiasts but caused outrage amongst animal rights campaigners.

Prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's socialist government announced that the ministry of culture will from now on be responsible for the "development and protection" of bullfighting, which previously fell within the remit of the interior ministry.

Whatever the government does to change the status of bullfighting will not affect what is actually happening to the sport in the country. In a recent poll, 60 per cent of Spaniards said they did not like bullfighting; attendances at corridas are falling, its appeal has faded among younger Spaniards and the industry has been hit by the economic crisis. The number of bullfights taking place at local fiestas has diminished as spending cuts have been enforced.

In other words, the need for a ban either nationally or regionally becomes less important as people continue to vote with their feet.


image ….and the living is easy”.

You know the score by now – August means long sunny hot days with very little chance of rain.

There will be the odd cloud or two about and a pleasant breeze to cool things down and stop you from frying.
image There will be little going on building wise not that there is a lot of construction taking place anyway.

Your main problem this month is finding a parking space anywhere near to a beach!

Time to get out the Mary Baker

Message from Diane Clarke to all Brits in Bigastro whether you live at Villas Andrea or not.


As a change we are doing all things sweet - cakes, pastries, pies, tarts, biscuits. 

The table will be ready at 1.00 p.m. on Saturday 13th August.  All contributions gratefully received and Barbara and Gordon's Anne will take down anything that someone cannot take for themselves, as long as they have the items by 12.30 p.m. on the day.

Thanks to everyone.