Saturday, June 30, 2012

I hate making these sort of recommendations

My new son-in-law wants to take his first step into serious photography and so has asked for my advice.

The first questions I needed to ask were:

How much do you want to spend and equally important, what do you want to photograph?

There is no one camera that is suited to everyone and the choices out there can be bewildering.

My recommendation to Dave has been to buy an entry level DSLR because they represent good value for money, offer a range of features that you don’t get on compact cameras and generally produce better image quality because of their larger sensors. Which one though because most manufacturers produce decent entry level DSLRs.

The two big players are Nikon and Canon and so I pointed Dave in their direction. The likes of Pentax, Sony, Panasonic and Olympus also make good DSLR cameras but they generally do not have the same range of accessories e.g. lenses available to them.

The temptation with both Canon and Nikon is to start with looking at the entry level model and then see what you can get for just a little more money. For example, the Nikon D3100 has now been replaced with the D3200 which costs that bit more. In the Canon range though there is a big jump up from the 1100D to even the 550D (the current model in that range is the 650D) so the temptation is less.

What about features?

The Canon model was introduced February 2011 and the Nikon D3100 August 2010 so the Canon is the newer of the two. However, there are some features of the  Nikon that might be considered more up to date and others that are definitely lacking. To compare the two models, along with the Pentax K-r that Dave has considered go to here.

In the end, as I have told Dave, he needs to handle both cameras and see which suits him best. Whichever he chooses, I am certain he will get some great photos. 

PS My recommendation, based on reviews, was for the Nikon D3100 even though I am personally committed to Canon.

Friday, June 29, 2012

My prediction was wrong

Well, well it seems the mercurial Mario Balotelli was in blazing form last night putting Germany out of the final. His second goal, in particular, was a moment of individual brilliance and a reminder of why Prandelli, in keeping with Roberto Mancini at Manchester City, believes Balotelli is worth the hassles and controversies and unpredictability that form part of the package.

We will have to wait until Sunday to see what he can do against Spain. 

Fiesta time

Looks like there will be something for everyone again this year.

From 18.00 Till  21.00: CHILDREN’S FAIR on  Avda. de La Libertad.
21.00 : Great Parade: infant, youth and 3rd age Queen’s courts.
23.00: Coronation of the Queens in “Huerto del Cura”, park.
Late night: disco for all ages in “Huerto del Cura” park.


From 12.00 till 16.00: Tapas on Antonio Gálvez street.
19.00: Fun Cars exhibition on Luis Gálvez Street
23.00: Opening of “Comparsas in Huerto del Cura” park.
Late night: disco for all ages in “Huerto del Cura” park.


From 12.00 till 16.00: Tapas on Antonio Gálvez street.
14.00: GREAT CONTEST of paellas and other local food in Huerto del Cura park.
16.00:  Big fiesta “Ibiza Style”.
20.00: Magnificent children’s parade.
22.00: Talent Contest : participants from the whole of the Alicante province with big prizes.
Late night: disco for all ages in  “Huerto del Cura” park.


From 12.00 till 16.00: Tapas on Antonio Gálvez street.
14.00: International Gastronomic journey. 
16.00: Special performance by Mano Sánchez: Singer and musician.
20.30: First parade of all “comparsas”.
22.00: General dinner: You bring the food and we will provide the wine and beer.
Late night: disco for all ages at “Huerto del Cura” park.


14.00: Special lunch: Bring whatever you´ve  got at home and we will provide the 
           “Pelotas”. Dance with The Metro Dance Music.
20.00 : Big Parade to offer flowers to San Joaquin and Mass at “La Plaza”.
23.00:Splendid concert by the “Bigastro Musical Union” in  Huerto del Cura park. 
Late night: disco for all ages in “Huerto del Cura” park.


01.00: “La Alborada” will parade through main streets followed by fireworks.  
02.00: Performance of “LOGAN MUSIC GROUP”
Late night: disco for all ages in “Huerto del Cura” park.
04.00: Special night for “carretillas” (little fireworks)

12.00 : Mass in the honour of San Joaquin in the church.
20.30 : Procession of San Joaquin through the main streets.
            At the end -  a grand firework display.
Late night: disco for all ages in “Huerto del Cura” park.
FRIDAY, 17TH AUGUST                   
Special appearance by “LA MURGA”.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

A novel idea

Bigastro City Library invites you to travel this summer with a wide range of travel books.

NB Although a lot of the authors are English speaking, the titles will be translated into  Spanish.

Alain de Botton        El arte de viajar
Ali Bey            Viajes por Marruecos
Geral Durrell        Seis meses en Nueva Zelanda, Australia y Malasia
Rudyard Kipling        Viaje al Japón
Paul Morand            Nueva York
Umberto Eco        La isla del dia de antes
Paul Bowles            Dias y viajes
Nadine Gordimer        La hija de Burger
Joseph Conrad        El corazón de las tinieblas
Graham Greene        Nuestro Hombre en la Habana
Ryszard kapuscinski    Ebano
Marco Polo            Libro de las cosas maravillosas
Doris Lessing        Relatos africanos
Luis Pancorbo        Rio de America
Alfred Russel        Viaje al archipielago Malayo
Gerald Durrell        Misión  de rescate en Madagascar
E.V. Gonzenbach        Viaje por el Nilo
Jack London            La llamada de lo salvaje y otros relatos
Vladimir Arseniev        Dersu Uzala    
Iñaki Preciado        En el pais de las nieves.
Alberto Vazquez-Figuer..    Los ojos del Tuareg
Kenzaburo Oé        Arrancad las semillas, fusilad a los niños.
Mnuel Mujica Láinez    Misteriosa Buenos Aires
William Faulkner        Luz de Agosto
Alejo Carpentier        Los pasos perdidos
Mario Vargas Llosa        Los jefes. Los Cachorros
Alejo Carpentier        El recurso del método
Jack London            El crucero del Snark
Georges Simenon        La mirada inocente
Marcel Schwob        Viaje a Samoa
Richard F. Burton        Mi peregrinación a la Meca

A new shopping experience

2012-07-05_IMG_2012-06-28_02.06.40__JVB006VB002_205107.jpg La Zenia boulevard is due to open on September 26th. The project, which has an area of 161,000 square metres encompasses 150 shops of which one third will be local traders.

The new complex is said to be built in the form of a Mediterranean village with streets and squares. At the centre is the Plaza Mayor but then there are other plazas such as the Plaza de las Flores and the Plaza London Square where shoppers can take a break and enjoy a drink or a snack.

Our two girls and Molly are coming to visit us on the 4th of September, returning to Manchester on the 11th so they will miss out this trip. However, I am sure Pam and I will take the opportunity to check the new shopping centre many times before their next visit when it will be high on their list of places to go.

That was frustrating

Watching Spain v Portugal last night you could see that Portugal were proving to be more than a match to the European Champions. At times they looked as though they were going to win the game but they didn’t but then neither did Spain during the game itself. In fact the Spaniards played badly for 90 minutes and only came alive during extra time.

Not only was it frustrating to watch, it was also very scrappy during the second half with yellow cad after yellow card being given. What we were looking for were goals but they didn’t come because neither team looked capable of scoring. Sure there were a few misses but neither goalkeeper was seriously challenged during more than 120 minutes of play.

So, it came down to a penalty shoot out and Ronaldo made the mistake of electing to go fifth and we all know the price he paid for that. The hero was Fabregas who scored the winning penalty for Spain. Tonight we will find out who they will play in the final. Let's hope they play a better game. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cost of living could rise steeply

The rate of IBA or VAT in Spain was 16% until 2010 when it was raised to 18%, the lowest in Europe.
Now the country is under pressure to raise the tax but the Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy  is resisting the pressure because he says it will further damage consumer spending and inhibit growth.

Instead, the finance minister is considering plans to abolish the discounted tax rates on certain goods and services. At present, we pay 8pc on the majority of food and sanitary products, ground transport, cultural activities such as cinema and theatre tickets, and hotel stays. We pay a super reduced rate of 4pc on basic foodstuffs such as milk, bread, fruit and vegetables and on books and newspapers

Raising the VAT to 18pc on all products and services would bring a significant increase to our weekly shopping bills. Let’s face it, the impact of an extra 12% on basic items of food would be catastrophic for many who are already struggling to make ends meet.

My reply

In relation to my item about the looky looky men, Bill from Mazarron says:

I have no particular brief for these, generally 'black', vendors of various items, but I do have to say I detect a little whiff of racism in your article.
We have the same 'problem' with these people in Mazarron and indeed I have noticed it in many other parts of Spain, but at least these folks are not 'stealing', mugging or breaking into people's homes. They are trying to make some kind of a living, more than can be said for some others.
If they are in Spain illegally, then they need to be rounded up and eventually deported, if present legally then their feeble efforts at paying their way should not be denigrated. Of course I know that many of them will be selling mostly fake goods, but probably not any less effective or durable than the piles of cheap rubbish that most of the recent influx of 'Chinese bazaars' stock.
I do get irritated with these folks sometimes, too, but compared to their difficult lives my own life is pretty comfortable and, to be honest, when one tells them to go away I have always found that they do without any undue unpleasantness.
Life is difficult in Spain just now, of course, for many people. I'm sure if the Spanish authorities really wished to 'get rid of' this 'problem' they could do so without too much trouble, but I suppose it boils down to the fact that the authorities have not forgotten that basic humanity is important, too, and for that I think they deserve some recognition, a not unremarkable thing in my view during the financial crisis the country is going through.

If my item came over as racist, I do apologise because that was not my intention. It doesn’t matter what county these people come from or what colour their skin is, what they are doing is illegal.  If they were British, Spanish or any other nationality, it would be equally wrong.

To make matters worse, they are now using force to try and intimidate the police and authorities into turning a blind eye to their activities. Blocking one of the main roads in Torrevieja for the whole afternoon has not helped their case.  It’s really nothing to do with whether their presence in bars and restaurants is annoying, the law against sale of counterfeit goods has to be upheld by the police.

We all feel sorry for these people. As far as i am aware, they are dragged over from their native land on the pretence that they will find honest employment in Spain only to end up scratching a living selling counterfeit goods, no doubt living in appalling conditions as well. Unfortunately, feeling sorry for them does not excuse what they do. The Chinese todos may sell similar quality goods but at least they are legal.

An unfortunate case

The former councillor for fiestas, José Espinosa says that he is owed about 6,000 Euros which he paid out of his own pocket for presents from the three kings in 2010. In the municipal accounts the bill was shown as due to the supplier who of course was paid. The present mayor says that this should have been sorted out four years ago with the mayor at that time, not now.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A unique opportunity

Over 16,000 aerial pictures of Britain taken between 1919-1953 have now been digitised and are available to see, download etc at Fascinating stuff, I have already found the location of the school I taught at before it was built along with images of places I grew up in.

Royal protocol in England

This is part of an article I read this morning in the Daily Telegraph.

The Duchess of Cambridge may be the future queen, but she has discovered that there are several women in the Royal family to whom she must show reverence.

The new rules of Court make it clear that the former Kate Middleton, when she is not accompanied by Prince William, must curtsy to the “blood princesses”, the Princess Royal, Princess Alexandra, and the daughters of the Duke of York, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.

When William is with her, Kate does not need to bend the knee to either of them, but she must curtsy to the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Despite being married to the Queen’s son, the Countess of Wessex will, however, have to curtsy to Kate, even when William is not present.

A document is said to have been circulated privately in the Royal Household, clarifying Kate’s status. When the Order was last updated, after Prince Charles’s second marriage, in 2005, the Countess of Wessex was reported to be upset that she now had to curtsy to Camilla.

The Earl of Wessex’s wife had previously been the second-highest ranking woman in the Royal family because neither of the Queen’s other sons, Charles and Prince Andrew, were married.

However, after Charles remarried, the Queen changed the Order of Precedence “on blood principles” so that neither Princess Anne nor Princess Alexandra, the granddaughter of George V, would have to curtsy to Camilla when her husband was not present.

Although the etiquette may seem arcane, it is taken very seriously by the Royal family, whose members bow and curtsy to each other both in public and in private.

The Order of Precedence affects other aspects of royal protocol, such as who arrives first at an event. For example, Camilla was forced to wait in the drizzle outside the Guards Chapel, Windsor, for the arrival of Princess Anne at a memorial service in 2006, because Charles had not accompanied her.

My children curtsy to their mother whether I am present or not and she of course curtsies to me.

Force of numbers

Sit down at any of the cafes and bars along the seafront at Torrevieja and you can guarantee that at some point you will be pestered by the looky looky salesmen. For many, their presence is annoying, after all you don’t go out for a meal with the intention of buying fake sunglasses or a cheap watch. 

The police have a duty to stamp out the sale of counterfeit good so they regularly round the sellers up and confiscate the goods to be later destroyed.

Last Monday, the police arrested five Senegalese vendors and took them to the Guardia Civil station. This was the last straw for the looky looky men who gathered outside the station to demand the release of their countrymen.

The protest continued with the vendors setting up barricades across roads to stop the traffic. They managed to cut off Avenida de las Habaneras for most of the afternoon. 

The situation with regards to these people has now become intolerable. Their presence along the seafront is not the attractive picture the town wants to present. The fact is that sterner measures should have been taken years ago to stop the influx of Senegalese coming into the town and setting up their stalls in this way. The problem is that there are obviously many who buy from them and thus encourage their presence.

Getting into the swing

Last night, the Bigastro Golf Society held its end of year presentation. You might expect that golf would be an all year round sport in Spain but in fact nobody who lives here would dream of play during the hot summer months.

The venue last night was the VaiVen in Bigastro where tables had been laid out for the members, their wives/partners and other friends to enjoy tapas and a few drinks.

Once everyone had found themselves a seat, the tapas were brought out and we enjoyed generous servings of typical Spanish snacks. You have to remember that Spaniards normally eat their main meal at lunch time and then just snacks at night so it would not be normal to have a full plated meal in the evening.

Fed and watered, we then moved on to the formal part of the occasion. First there was a raffle for prizes which had been donated by the members themselves. So each member took home something as a memento of the occasion. Then there was a raffle for prizes donated by the societies sponsors, everything from tapas at the VaiVen to a plant in a pot with a fair number of free rounds of golf at the various clubs that the society play at along with meal out at the clubs as well.

Then we came to the prizes for the last game the members had played including; nearest the pin, best first 9, longest drive etc etc including a tractor for the player who spent most time in the bunker and Mr Blobby who is the society’s booby prize!

It was a good evening spent in some great company. We have to thank Les Rowlands and his wife Sheila for all the work they put into organising the event and say to them, “put our names down for next year”.

They doth protest


First we heard the loudspeaker on the van, then the whistles blowing as a group of Bigastrense marched along Calle Purisima to rally outside the Ayuntamiento.

Their protest was against the closure of the 24 hour emergency service and was organised by the local Socialist party. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Rumours and gossip

There are some who thrive on gossip and others who like to start rumours. Most men that I know take very little heed of rumours, it does seem to me to be a woman thing. Still, from time to time, some of these tales do pass my ears.

Certainly, I would be very wary of passing rumours on because you never know a) whether they are true and b) whether they will get back to the person the rumour is about.

Most of the tales you hear are harmless but now and again there pops up a story that could cause problems – mostly about relationships by which I mean partners splitting up or people having affairs. If you believed all the rumours about affairs at Villas Andrea, you would think we were living in Peyton Place. As far as I am concerned, none of them are true and all of them are potentially damaging.

Usually, the person starting the rumour begins with, “I shouldn’t be telling this but….” and then continues with, “I can’t tell you who told me.” The reason they can’t say who told them is because they are the ones that made it up.

Pam and I know who the chief culprits are and do our best to avoid these sort of conversations with them. However, whenever we meet up, they still insist on telling us something we don’t really want to know.

Two choirs – one voice

When we first heard the Bigastro choir they were a little raw. Many hours of practice and a good choice of material has made huge improvements. They now sound balanced, sharp and in one voice.

Actually both choirs were damn good and even better when they sang together at the end of the concert.

PS I couldn't help but notice that the Hallelujah choir had a larger contingent of young ladies than the Bigastro one. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

My predictions

I might not be any good at predicting the outcome of football games but the weather is a different matter.

I can tell you with absolute certainty that it will be hot and sunny in Bigastro for the whole of next week. Temperatures could well rise to maximums of 36 degrees dropping to a comfortable 20 – 22 at night. There is bugger all chance of any rain and the winds will be at most fresh. Now see if I am wrong!

On the Wirral, where we used to live, it should stay dry until Thursday but even in the sunshine it will struggle to reach the night time temperatures of Bigastro. 

Meantime, the Isle of Wight festival has been a mud bath. However, that won’t have upset the ardent fans who were treated to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on Friday, Peal Jam yesterday  and will be keen to see Bruce Springsteen and the East Street Band today. As much as I would have loved to have seen all three bands, I would not want to stand past my ankles in mud for it.

A lot of jubilation

I think you could say that Spaniards were pleased to get through to the semi finals of Euro 2012. By all accounts it was a comfortable win with only one well placed free kick that could have caused La Selección trouble. So they go on to meet Portugal on Wednesday thanks to Xavi Alonso's two goals.

In the meantime England get to play Italy who are apparently not at their best but then neither are England who I understand are defending well but not scoring goals. If England do get through, then they will go on to face their arch rivals, Germany. That is the match that all England supporters fear. 

I’ve said it so many times on this blog that I am no fan of football and so know very little about it. However, I will predict now that Spain will face Germany in the final and that could be anybody’s game. Looking at the statistics Spain have conceded the least number of goals but Germany have scored more goals. Spain have had more shots on target and have managed to keep the ball more often so who knows. There is still Portugal to beat before we can even think about that.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Divided loyalties

By way of a diversion from the football this weekend it is Grand Prix time in Valencia or, as it is now known, F1.
Lewis Hamilton is leading the board at the moment with Fernando Alonso trailing by two points so depending on your loyalties you could be cheering for one or the other. 

Today’s practice starts at 1pm. Jensen Button and Lewis Hamilton currently stand at 12th and 14th fastest in practice with Sebastian Vettel in first place so far.

Likewise we have Spain v France in the quarter finals of Euro 2012 followed by England v Italy.

What will we do if both Spain and England get through to the final? Before we consider that, England have to beat both Italy and Germany whilst Spain have to overcome France and then Portugal.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Diamonds of the opera

That is an enticing poster but what is it about?
On Saturday, June 30 in the Municipal Auditorium Francisco Grau, Bigastro, at 9pm there will be  a pot pourri of operatic performances  including Arias, Duets, Trios, etc. performed by ladies.

I presume they will will be wearing a little more clothing than the lady in the poster - shame!



20120621_audicion The audition of the School of Music will take place on Saturday June 23 at 20:30 pm in the Municipal Auditorium Francisco Grau Bigastro

Two for the price of one

20120621_intercambioOn Sunday June 24th at 8pm there will be a Choral Exchange between the Coral Aleluya de Rincón de Bonanza and the Coral Unión Musical de Bigastro in the Municipal Auditorium Francisco Grau, Bigastro

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Calling all performers

It isn’t yet July but already the town is preparing for the local fiesta in August.

This Saturday the queen will be elected – a process which I assume has taken place in the past. This time though, the election will take place in the park and the judges will come from other municipalities. The contestants will parade three times in different clothes and even different hairstyles.

Normally, I would be down there with my camera to get some shots. Sadly, I dropped my telephoto lens whilst in England and it is in London being repaired. Although the repair should be complete by the weekend, the lens will not be back in Spain before Saturday.

The other date for our diaries is the 12th August when there will be a talent competition with a top prize of 1,000 Euros. I spoke to Aurelio about this the other day. He told me it was open to all nationalities and would love to see some of the Brits from our estate perform on the night. To take part you need to register before the 20th July. So if you are a singer, a dancer, a magician or have any other performing talent, get your name down – we’ll cheer you on the night.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sense at last

Angela Merkel is obviously not as much of an “iron lady” as Margaret Thatcher was when she said, “this lady is not for turning”.

It took a major shift in policy for the German chancellor to decide that it was only right for the stronger economies in Europe to support the weaker ones without making stringent conditions that countries like Greece have found unacceptable.

The proposals are to use two rescue funds -  the 500 billion Euros of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and the 250 billion Euros of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) to buy bonds from those countries that are struggling to sell i.e. Spain and Italy.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Medicine to cost more

Most governments regard the two areas of health and education as untouchable in terms of cuts. However, the situation in Spain is desperate and so these two areas of public spending have to face cuts.

The Health Ministry has decided to increase the price of 4,000 medicines from the 1st July. Green prescriptions for the affected medicines will have a black spot on them showing that they are subject to the price hike.

The price rise coincides with the introduction of the 'copago' system. However, the ministry has said that this will depend on how well the information technology and access to computer programmes has been developed in the different regions.

Talk, talk and more talk

Conference after conference and still there seems to be no agreement on how to solve the financial problems of Europe.

At the current G20 summit, America made it clear that it is not prepared to help out. In reply, EU commission president José Manuel Barroso pointed out that the roots of the  eurozone crisis lay in the unorthodox policies of American capitalism.

"This crisis was not originated in Europe …  this crisis originated in North America and much of our financial sector was contaminated by, how can I put it, unorthodox practices, from some sectors of the financial market."

In the meantime, cost of borrowing for Spain rose to above the critical 7% barrier and so the Spanish government has demanded intervention by the European Central Bank.

It seems to me that the controlling factor in Europe is Germany and Angela Merkel. Her insistence on austerity as a means to cure the problems has lead to stifled growth in those countries affected. And her refusal to consider the issue of eurobonds to pool liability for the euros debt means we are going nowhere fast.

Spain might have made mistakes during the boom years but it was certainly aided buy its northern European neighbours who are now wiping their hands clean of the problem and as for America – let’s not speak about their contribution to the crisis.

Now there is a twist

When you are working parents, it is difficult to know what to do with your children during the summer holiday.

Parents in Bigastro have an opportunity to keep their children occupied for at least part of the time with the summer school.

The Anoka SPORT Sports Association and the Union Music Bigastro in collaboration with Bigastro City Council will be running in July a bilingual Spanish-English Summer School,

The twist is that the summer school will be bilingual - in English and Spanish. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

What's important

The country may be on is backside; unable to sell its bonds, requiring a 100 million Euro bailout to supports its banks. The regions may be so indebted that they cannot borrow money from anywhere and even the towns are drowning in debt but none of this matters because La Selección de fútbol de España will go through to the next stage of the Euro 2012 competition. Ultimately, that is what really matters; the World Champions have survived to the next stage

It is also summer and fiesta time. On the 23rd of this month, Bigastro will elect the queens for this year's fiesta and Aurelio has asked me for photo's to be part of the book that accompanies it. There will be fireworks, parades, music and everything else that goes to make the town's celebration of its patron saint special. We may see some cost cutting here and there but mostly it will be business as usual.

There is obviously something about the Spanish psyche which allows the country to continue even when it is on the brink of collapse. Nobody dwells on the doom and gloom, they just get dressed up, party hard and cheer their team on.

Of course, if Spain loose out in the next stages of Euro 2012, that will be something else! We don't really want to think of that happening. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Happy Father's Day

In Spain, "el dia de padres" is on the Feast day of Saint Joseph, which is March 19th. It is a national holiday and is regarded as being very important. Here in Bigastro, we have a special concert at the Auditorium to celebrate the day.

However, in England it is tomorrow that fathers get a day off. The day for dads though does not have the same importance in England as it does in Spain. In fact I would venture to say that Mother's Day is given greater prominence.

I know that I have a card from my daughters because I can see the envelope on the dining table. There is no evidence of a gift though! Perhaps that will come later:-)

Actually, I won't even be getting a day off. Last night Pamela said we should get up early this weekend and spend less time on the Internet so we can get some jobs done. She repeated it three times, waiting for a positive response each time. That meant I had no option, I had to agree.

Maybe it is just as well that I only have a card to open, there may not be time for anything else. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Never too old to learn

You know I learnt an awful lot from watching the two professionals shooting pictures at my daughter's wedding.

Talking to Ian Jardine afterwards, I also learnt how thorough his approach is.

Ian only uses 4GB memory cards and never fills them. For each part of the wedding he swaps cards but only after he has transferred the pictures to his laptop which he stores in a secure place. The used cards are then kept by his wife, Cathy in a belt around her waist. As Ian says, memory cards can develop faults so he doesn't want the whole of wedding shoot on one card and he certainly doesn't want them lying around in his camera bag for someone to pick up.

When he gets back home, Ian then transfers the pictures to his main computer and backs them up to two external drives; one in a fire proof safe at his own home and the other in a fire proof safe at his mother-in-laws house. Only then does he indulge himself with a fine drop of whisky.

In terms of his technique, Ian prefers natural light but will supplement it with flash where necessary either from an external flashgun on his camera with a diffuser to soften the light or from a softbox placed high on a light stand.

For the first dance, he relied on natural light, setting the ISO high on his Nikon D700. The full frame Nikon is renowned for its ability to produce clean images at high ISO speeds and so this is no problem. The results captured the atmosphere much better than my efforts using an external flashgun.

The other thing I noticed was that Ian uses a hand held meter to check exposures. It isn't that he doesn't trust the meter built into his Nikon, it is just that he knows that it is vital to get a proper exposure on the bride's dress. He also uses a grey card to set colour balance. Although you can adjust colour later if you shoot in RAW format, as Ian says, it is better to get it right in the camera.

For sure, I will be putting all of these tips into practice next time I have an important event to photograph and will thank Ian every time I do.

Common ground

My son-in-law was so impressed by seeing the two photographers at work during his wedding that he has decided that photography might be a good hobby for him.

With a beautiful wife and a delightful daughter as subjects, it seems to me a great idea. Added to which, Dave is a very creative person with excellent drawing and compositional skills. I am certain, given a decent camera, he will soon surpass me with the quality of his pictures.

What camera to buy though

Dave already has a half decent camera with a Leica lens but then it is a compact with the inevitable tiny sensor that these cameras come with. In bright light it works fine but in poor light the pictures are noisy.  The other problem with compacts is that it is near impossible to apply what is called "differential focussing"- that is where the main subject is in focus and the background blurred or vice versa. I know Dave likes this effect on my photos and those from the professionals at his wedding.

What I reckon Dave needs is a camera with a larger sensor and so I have suggested he treats himself to an entry level DSLR (digital single lens reflex). My recommendation to him is the Nikon D3100 which might seem strange coming from a Canon shooter but the truth is the entry level Nikon is marginally better than the similar offering from Canon.

It would be good if Dave does decide to invest in a good camera for three reasons:
1. We'd have a constant supply of great photos of Molly to enjoy.
2. He and I would have a rewarding hobby in common.
3. I'd know exactly what to buy him for Christmas and birthdays.

PS Let's face it, a camera such as I have suggested will cost Dave less than the bride's shoes for the wedding did:-)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Normal service to return soon

I got home to find the battery on my UPS had finally given up the ghost. To be fair, the lead acid battery in these devices are only rated for 3 years and I have had this one for 5. I should have ordered a replacement before but I didn't. One is now on its way so the battery back up system should be functional again real soon.

In the meantime though, I am wary about using my desktop PC because if we have one of those little power cuts that seem to happen at random, my computer will just shut down immediately. If that happens, there could be dire consequences - Windows doesn't like being terminated abruptly but worse still an untimely cut in power could cause the hard drives in my computer to crash.

So, for the moment I am working on my Apple MacBook Pro where I have limited access to data. For example I need to update the website for my friends Chris and Linda but that is all stored on my desktop and so will have to wait awhile.


Projecting a giant sized image of the Queen alongside the union flag was bound to upset Spaniards who could clearly see it from towns along the coast. Playing Rule Britannia loud enough for those in La Linea to hear would not have helped either.

It seems that Spaniards are also upset about the inauguration of the new airport terminal in Gibraltar by prince Edward at the conclusion of his visit to celebrate the Jubilee. 

Spain has already lodged a formal complaint to the European Union about Gibraltar's new tax laws. They believe that the 10 per cent tax regime means that the citizens are receiving illegal state aid. 

A country whose credit rating has been moved down three notches by Moody's and is now close to junk status might well see the wealthy Gibraltarians as rubbing their noses and sticking two fingers at them but the fact remains that the Rock is British and as far as Gibraltar is concerned should remain British. I for one agree with them.
The Department of Social Welfare invites all citizens to a meeting on Thursday 14th June at 5pm in the HALL OF THE 3RD AGE.
The purpose is a lecture for the elderly, delivered by Lieutenant José Antonio Gómez Alonso, to inform them of how to prevent scams and thefts.

Times are hard for many here in Spain and so we can expect those who would not normally resort to crime to become desperate. We all need to be extra vigilant to protect ourselves, this talk could well help many to be more aware of the measures they should take to avoid becoming a victim of scams and thefts.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Orihuela animal shelter joins Facebook for adoptions

This month a year ago the animal shelter in San Bartolome (Orihuela) was officially opened. One year on hundreds of abandoned dogs and cats have arrived in the shelter. But more importantly also hundreds of animals have found new homes thanks to a small army of volunteers who have set up extensive adoption programs.

Currently various organisations in different locations in Spain, Germany, Holland, Belgium and Switzerland are working effortless to find new families for these abandoned animals.

The attempts to keep the shelter from being overpopulated have born fruit, but the volunteers know that always more needs to be done.

The latest initiative to keep the adoptions on par with the steady influx of abandoned newcomers is a Facebook page aimed primarily at the English speaking community in the region of the Costa Blanca. This Facebook page informs people about the many wonderful animals for which they are trying to find a new home. At any given time there will be at least 60 to over a hundred dogs and cats on this page. At the moment quite a few puppies are on Facebook.

This approach is the next logical step in our attempts to keep the situation in the shelter manageable, says one of the volunteers. Especially during the summer months the situation gets really problematic. That is the time that animals are abandoned more than ever and also the time that many puppies are brought into the shelter or simply dumped outside the entrance gate.

The volunteers are convinced that the Facebook page can help to get more dogs and cats adopted. If the initiative is a success there are already plans to set up similar Facebook pages in a few other languages.

The shelter´s Facebook page is: orihuelaanimalshelter. There is a clear description on the site on how to get to the shelter.

Emergency service will definitely go

The emergency service at Bigastro, which also serves nearby Jacarila and Benejúzar, will close on the 1st July according to the Vega Baja Hospital director, Carlos Arenas. He says that between 12pm and 8am there was an average of 2.3 patients and that most have been minor cases. 

For those who do not have a car, there will be an ambulance on standby to take them to Vega Baja hospital.

In reply to the assertion that the closure will cause problems at Vega Baja hospital, he says that it is still working at under its maximum capacity of 320,000 inhabitants. The pressure on the Orihuela hospital was much reduced by the opening of the new one at Torrevieja. 

In any case, an average of 2.3 extra patients between 12pm and 8am is hardly going to cause chaos in an A&E department. 

The socialist spokesperson for Bigastro, Raúl Valerio Medina says he has collected 600 signatures opposing the move and has accused Charo Bañuls of showing no interest in this issue. I am sure she has more pressing matters to concern herself with like the 17 million deficit that her party inherited.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Royal visit a great success

The celebrations for the Queen's Jubilee might have been a wash out in Britain but here in Spain the sunshine has brought out thousands of loyal supporters in parties organised by ex-pats.

As part of the celebrations, Prince Edward and his wife Sophie are in Gibraltar.

They were greeted there by crowds of well-wishers, despite the royal visit coming after weeks of skirmishes between the British territory's police and Spanish fishermen.

Spain has accused police from the British territory of chasing its fishermen from Spanish waters in recent weeks and has deployed Civil Guard officers to protect the boats.

Gibraltar and Britain say the police are simply enforcing a law that regulates fishing within the waters of the port of the peninsular ceded to the British in 1713 after a 1704 capture.

Spain's foreign minister has said the country will continue to protect the country's fishermen in a dispute that has reignited tensions between the two countries over the sovereignty of the peninsular which Spain has long claimed as its own.

Show off your talents and win 1,000 Euros

If you have technical or artistic skills of any kind, this is your chance, DO NOT HESITATE TO JOIN and spend a fun night doing what you love.

1.- El concurso se celebrará en Bigastro, durante el mes de agosto 2.012 en el recinto 
asignado por la Comisión de Fiestas. 
2.- Podrá participar cualquier persona de forma individual o en grupo, sin limitación de 
edad o sexo o nacionalidad. 
3.- La actuación podrá tener cualquier contenido, siempre que no ofenda a ninguna 
persona, religión o grupo social, ni infrinja ninguna ley o normativa local, autonómica o 
4.- Cada participante deberá tener preparadas dos actuaciones diferentes, una para la 
fase clasificatoria y otra para la final. Caso de que la fase clasificatoria tuviera que 
desarrollarse en varias actuaciones, el artista podrá incorporar otros números o repetir 
alguno de los ya presentados. 
5.- Para la inscripción se deberá dejar una fianza de 25€ que se devolverán una vez 
terminada la participación del artista en el concurso. Caso de que el artista no participe 
en los actos que la organización programe dentro del concurso, quedará descalificado 
y perderá la fianza depositada.  
6.- Menores de 18 años, deberán presentar una autorización paterna para participar. 
7.-La organización decidirá con fallo inapelable, en todo lo no incluido en las bases. 
8.- Las inscripciones se pueden hacer mediante personación en el Ayuntamiento, 
Plaza de la Constitución 1, En horario de  9.30 a 14.00 horas, o enviando un correo 
electrónico a,  con los siguientes datos: 
a.- Nombre completo del artista o del grupo. 
b.- Modalidad de la actuación. 
c.- Número de componentes en caso de grupos. 
d.- Teléfonos de contacto. 
e.- Población en la que residen. 
f.-  Dirección de correo electrónico. 
Para más información pueden llamar a: Ayuntamiento de Bigastro, Tlf.   965350000. 
9.- Habrá dos clasificaciones, una general en la entrarán todos los participantes, y una 
clasificación sólo para los residentes en Bigastro.
El primer clasificado de la general obtendrá un premio de 1.000€.
El primer clasificado de los residentes en Bigastro obtendrá un premio de  250€.
Caso de coincidir ambos en la misma persona, el de 250€ se entregará al segundo 
clasificado de los residentes en Bigastro. 
11.- Cada actuación será evaluada por un jurado independiente cuyo fallo es 

Monday, June 11, 2012

What’s going on?

I have no idea what is planned for Bigastro because unfortunately the town’s web site it down at the moment. I’m sure normal service will be resumed ASAP. In the meantime, I have no news for you.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

My photos

After a marathon session going through the photos of my daughter’s wedding, I have put them into an album for you to see at

It is a bit of a random collection because of course I did have some duties to perform as “father of the bride”. As you can see though, I did sneak out of the ceremony to grab some shots of the happy couple leaving through the door! It seems I was supposed to accompany Joan. the mother of the groom, back down the aisle. I hope she forgives me!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Home again

The party is over and now we are back home. We had a fantastic time even though the weather was not at its best for most of our stay.

The wedding was just wonderful and seeing our granddaughter Molly was such a treat - what a chatterbox she has become.

We'd like to thank all those who made our holiday so special, Laura and Dave, our daughter Jemma, Dave's parents, Joan and BC, our friends Glenys and Peter and of course little Molly.

It was good to catch up with our other friends, John and Joyce, Hugh, Angela, Andrew and his girlfriend Anna, Catherine and Elizabeth, Laura (Stanley) her sister Sarah and mother Christina, Pete and his lovely wife Laura; also to reunite with all the girlies, Mika, Carrie, Fi, Diane, Leanne, Kirsty, Anne Louise, Rachael and many others from both sides of the family.

A huge thanks are due to those who made the wedding day so special, Styal Lodge and the lovely Poppy, Pink Pepper - Neil and Sarah, not forgetting also Ian, Simon and Sarah who have already shown us some of the beautiful photos they took. 

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Well earned rest

Today, we went to the viewing park to see Laura and Dave take off on their honeymoon. Even though it was cold and wet, it was most impressive to see the Airbus 380 leave for Dubai. It was even more poignant knowing that two of the people on board were members of our family.

As I have said, Laura and Dave worked hard to make sure their wedding was a success. Their aim was to give all of the guests a day to remember and they certainly succeeded in that.

Every aspect was well thought out with great attention to detail which meant they had to spend many hours over the last two years creating a special event for all of us.

They deserve the treat of a holiday and that is what was planned. We all hope that Laura and Dave's honeymoon is as memorable for them as their wedding day was for us.

Lady luck

The weather was dreadful the day before Laura and Dave's wedding. We had our fingers crossed and it seems our prayers were heard. The weather was perfect, we even had periods of sunshine!

Everything went very well and all the guests seemed to enjoy themselves. You could not ask for more than that.

Today Laura and Dave fly to Dubai and on to the Maldives for their honeymoon. We all hope that they have a wonderful time and a well earned rest following all the work they put in to wedding preparations.  

Monday, June 04, 2012

Start the day right

Spaniards think that we English eat a full cooked breakfast every day. We have explained to them that very few eat bacon, eggs, fried bread etc except maybe at weekends. All that cholesterol is not good for you, especially if you lead the sedentary life of a retired person.

Today was an exception. We are in a four star hotel so a full English was in order.

For the benefit of our Spanish readers, this is what one looks like. Mine had bacon, scrambled eggs, black pudding, sausage, tomato and baked beans. To be honest, I did leave the beans - they have a reputation of making you windy and it would not do to be trumping as I lead Laura down the aisle. 

Now I am set up properly for the day all I need is a pipe of my favourite tobacco or maybe it is time to smoke one of my special cigars. 

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Away for a little while

Sorry I haven't kept up for a few days but we have been preoccupied. You see Pam and I are in Manchester for our daughter Laura's wedding which is actually tomorrow!

As you can imagine, it is all hands to the pump at the moment. Everything seems to be going to plan so far so fingers crossed it all runs smoothly on the day.

Of course you will understand, I have an important role to play as "father of the bride". Apart from the simple task of leading my daughter up the aisle, I have the honour of making the first speech.

The words have been going round in my head for the last few days, having spent the last two weeks in Spain learning them. Fingers crossed, I don't miss something out especially if it is an important part.

I will let you know how things went tomorrow.

PS It has rained all day but the forecast for is for sunshine to follow, let's hope they are right.