Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It is me!

I have received a couple of comments about the new profile picture. Both say I look a lot younger than in the previous photo.

That is interesting because the previous picture was taken a few years ago and the present one was taken at the wedding of my youngest daughter in June this year.

If I am looking younger on each photo, then either the life here in Bigastro is suiting me well or I have discovered a miracle way of turning back the clock. If it is the latter, then I must get it patented - I'll make a fortune!


Bigastro band took second prize in the competition for film music held on the 21st July held in Cullera.

The event started with a parade of the four bands taking part. Bigastro played the pasadoble Manolete.

Then in the Jardines del Mercado, they played the set piece, "Gloria Ramirez" by Rafael Talens Pell followed by the Banda Sonora from the film Exodus: Hebrew Suite / The Fiddler / Schindler's List.

By all accounts, the band were at their very best and gained well deserved congratulations from all concerned. Having listened to the pieces they played I would whole heartedly agree.

We’re back!

In case you were wondering where we have been for the past six days, it was a trip to Barcelona. Pam figures that we might be too old to venture out on city trips in five or more years time so we should do them now. Barcelona was first choice.

How did we get there? We flew from Alicante – just one hour on the plane versus most of the day on a train or coach.

Where did we stay? The four star, hotel Roger de Lluria close to the centre.

What did we do? Mostly we walked and walked! The second day we walked too far and were exhausted by the time we returned to the hotel.

What did we see?
  • We saw the bullring from the outside then the Sagrada Familia on the first day.
  • The second day we visited the Placa Catalunya, La Rambla,  el Merced San Josep, the Palau Guell, the Placa Reail. the Placa Colum and the Rambla del Mar.
  • The third day we went to the Catedral, the Gothic Quarter and the Museo de Picasso.
  • Day four we took in the Passeig de Gracia, the Casa Batllo and La Pedrera apartments.
  • Day five was reserved for the Parc Guell. Sensibly we took a taxi there and back – the last part of the route is uphill and it is a long way out.
Of course I took plenty of photos which are in three albums which you will find in the sidebar under My recent albums of photos.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Any ideas?

The strike by Valencian chemists that was on, then off seems to be now very much underway. Yesterday, I went down to collect my prescription only to find that all of the chemists’ shops in Bigastro were closed.

Outside one was an emergency list of chemists’ that would be open and the hours at which they will dispense urgent prescriptions but the list was out of date.

I’m down to the last of my blood pressure tablets and could really do with getting my next supply but I have no idea where there will be a chemist that is open.

I fully understand the predicament of the chemists who are owed money from January, a figure said to be about 484 million euros. They simply cannot continue to dispense without payment and neither can the suppliers but then neither can those who need medication continue without it.

Many thanks to Mrs P. who told me that the chemist in San Miguel was always open. As it happens, the lady in the tobacconist in Bigastro told us that the one in Jacarilla was also open. We had to go there this morning anyway so I was able to pick up my tablets at the same time. 

Street market to get facelift

The popular craft fair that is erected daily on the seafront at Torrevieja is to undergo a facelift.

For forty years, the traders have had to set up their stalls each day and take them down at night.

For the future, they will have open fronted wooden sheds which will be left permanently in place. Apart from the convenience, the buildings will provide shade and protection from the rain.

The council also intend to repair the pavement along that stretch of promenade which, at the moment,  is in a sorry state. In the meantime, the market will be relocated to allow the work to be completed.

One of the other benefits of this change will be to eliminate the illegal traders who set up stalls along the current market without paying fees to the council.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Time to get building

20120723_cartelcocheslocosIf you haven’t already done so, now is the time to get building your “crazy car” to take part in the competition this year.

There are a few rules to observe:

  • Your creation must not have a motor of any sort. 
  • It must hold no more than 6 people.
  • It should have steering and brakes (pretty obvious really).
  • It must be capable of surviving the course which is 500m downhill.

Most important, the prizes:

100 euros and a trophy for the fastest down the hill.

200 euros and a trophy for the most original with a second prize of 100 euros and trophy in this category. In this class your design does not even have to reach the finish line so you can be as outrageous as possible. Probably a good idea to make it safe though!

PS I’ll be there with my camera so a nice smile as you go past would be good.

From Kilburn to Paris

Brought up in Kilburn by his mother and grandparents, Bradley Wiggins dreamed of taking part in the Tour de France. His mother took him to Paris when he was 13 to watch the final stage on the Champs-Elysées. Little did he know that 19 years later he would be the one on the top step of the podium as the first British rider to win the 99 year old race.

Of course, the French would have wanted one of their own in his place, it is after all 27 years since a French cyclist won le Tour. However, they have warmed to Wiggins who they christened “Wiggo le Froggy” - adopting him as if he was one of their own.

A fan of mod culture, Wiggins sports the RAF roundel on his helmet just as Keith Moon did on his T-shirt. He also has an impressive collection of Fender and Gibson guitars and of course, Lambretta and Vespa scooters.

No matter what the French think though, this was a British achievement. Wiggins has now made history as both the first Brit to win the Tour and the first to win the tour as World champion. Now all he has to do is win a few more gold medals at the Olympics to go with the ones he already has.

Oh and before we forget, Wigins lead his teammate Mark Cavendish out to win his fourth stage win on the Champs-Elysées – that was equally impressive.

BBC Sports Personality of the Year – I certainly hope so.

Thinking of 2013

This year’s Moors and Christian fiesta is over and now we look forward to next year. The ambassadors have already been appointed – for the Moors it will be Eusebio Martínez from the comparsa Moros J'Alhamed  and for the Christians, Jacobo Murcia from the comparsa Caballeros de Santiago.

Even though their parades are almost a year off, the two are already laying down plans for their participation in the 1,300th anniversary of the signing of the pact of King Teodomiro.  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

What a spectacle!

You knew that the Black Egyptians would put on something spectacular in support of their embassador, Fernando Lacárcel and they did.

Apart from row after row of members of the comparsa in the most fantastic costumes, we had dancers dressed as cobras and even a couple of live crocodiles parading the streets.

The only thing I would say about the Moors parade is that it is perhaps half an hour too long. By the time it finishes, you are dizzy looking at the costumes. I always feel sorry for the last group who have to wait so long to parade along streets where many have already gone home.

And yes, there is an album of photos for you to see in the sidebar under My recent albums of photos.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Best of luck

1. Bigastro band are playing in a competition tonight with the theme - “music from the films”. I know they have practised hard for this and so they deserve to come back with a prize – I hope they do.

2. We know now that Bradley Wiggins will ride into Paris tomorrow as the worthy winner of the Tour de France and Chris Froome will take second place. All they have to do is stay on their bikes! The question is, “will Mark Cavendish win the stage?” We will know the answer to that soon enough. I hope he does because the Manxman has sacrificed his stage wins this year for his leader so far and tomorrow will be his big day. 

It could be a big day for the Bigastro band and tomorrow could be a huge day for British cycling!

Their end is in sight

There are many things that we were not told when we set out to live in Spain, one was the variety of insects we would encounter. Of course, those who holidayed in Spain before moving here would have been aware of most of the bugs we find here but then it is different being on holiday with pests and living with them.

The cockroach – a few facts:

Cockroaches are among the hardiest insects on the planet. They are capable of surviving for long periods on meagre resources and can even tolerate high doses of radiation. They are also extremely adaptable to new environments and will eat almost anything. Some species can produce over 20,000 young in their lifetime.

Considering their bad reputation, it may come as a surprise that only a handful of the 4,000 species of cockroach are considered common household pests. These ancient, primitive insects are most common where the climate is warm and humid. Famous for their hissing, cockroaches can reach an impressive nine centimetres in length, although most species are much smaller.

The most common one we find here is the Oriental Cockroach

Oriental Cockroaches probably get their names from trade ships but they are actually from Africa. They are large and very dark compared to other cockroaches. They usually travel through sewer pipes and drains. They prefer dirty places and cooler temperatures than other cockroaches. An Oriental cockroach creates a strong smell and is considered one of the dirtiest of all the cockroaches.


Oriental cockroaches feed on all types of garbage and other organic material.


Oriental cockroaches also live in sewers and wet, decaying areas, such as basements and crawlspaces, firewood and piles of leaves.


Cockroaches crawl through dirty areas and then walk around our homes tracking in lots of bacteria and germs. They can contaminate food by shedding their skins. Their cast off skin and waste by-products are allergens that can trigger allergic reactions, asthma and other illnesses, especially in children.


  • Keep your home clean and dry.
  • Vacuum often and seal cracks in and around your house.
  • If you see cockroaches, it is best to call a pest management professional due to the illnesses they can spread.

Now the good news: Next week the pest control people will be up at Villas Andrea to put poison down the drains.

My thanks to our neighbour Gordon for providing this information.

Very colourful

Anybody who tells you that the Moors and Christian parades in Orihuela are the same each year have got it all wrong. Sure, there is row upon row of people in costume as the various filas from each comparsa parades in turn but the overall spectacle changes each year.

The Christian Ambassador  this year came from the Pirates Buccaneers and so it was down to them to lead the parade last night and act out a story of how they rescued the city from the Moors and at the same time the Armengola. As pirates would, they demanded a booty in return, the treasure of old Teodomiro.

There were smoking cannons, a pirate ship, a watchtower and a treasure chest in the parade. The ballet that followed was a group dressed as parrots. Fantastic and well worth going to see! Oh and yes, there were huge pirate marionettes and  a live tiger in a cage just to spice things up.

Click on the link in the sidebar under "My recent albums of photos" to see my pictures.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The good, the bad and the possibly ugly

The good

The bailout for Spain’s banks was approved by the German parliament. They even agreed that the surplus from the 100bn euro package could be used to buy bonds.

The bad

Spain had to pay 6.459% to sell its five year bonds and over 7% for its 10 year bonds. France only had to offer less than 1% for similar bonds.

The ugly

Protesters took to the streets of 80 Spanish cities on Thursday night in protest against the governments' 65bn euro austerity package. More than 100,000 people were estimated to have joined in demonstrations called by trades unions, with about 50,000 gathering in Madrid. Police fired rubber bullets to disperse the protesters in Madrid.

Angry civil servants had blocked traffic in several main Madrid avenues earlier in the day, with protesters puncturing the tyres of dozens of riot police vans, amid growing upset at austerity, recession and 24% unemployment.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

People living in glass houses

The Ayuntamiento in Bigastro are intent on claiming the council tax that should have been paid on 200 properties in the town. Some of the owners have not paid local taxes for ten years in an arrangement that the PP says was instigated by the previous socialist government in return for votes.

Of course mayors are not exempt from council tax and so it has been brought to light that Charo Bañuls has not paid IBI on the house she lives in. Yesterday she took the time to explain why.

The family business decided to convert one of its warehouses into  6 houses, three of which were completed by July 2010. They applied for a cadastral evaluation a month after completion and the City Council granted the license for occupation in October. Bañuls  says that she has been living in the house since late 2009.

As all of the residents at Villas Andrea know, the process of applying rates to new properties takes time. First there is the evaluation by Cadastre in Alicante, then the process undertaken by SUMA who are the agency employed to collect local taxes. Bañuls says that has now been completed and has the bills for 2011 and 2012 but points out that they are for 1,000 euros per year and not the 9,000 euros reported in the local press. That equates to just over 300 euros per house.

The only real issue for the mayor and her family is that the planning permission for the three incomplete houses will expire.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A through job

The old adage that “you get what you pay for” applies to car servicing. When I lived in the UK, I always had my cars serviced by the franchised dealer. It might not have been cheap but at least I knew that the work was done to the manufacturer's specifications. 

Now I live in Spain and drive Skodas, I apply the same principle. From new, both the Skodas I have owned have been serviced by Rubio Movil  on Av. Gregorio Marañon, Torevieja.

The service receptionist there, Mercedes is extremely efficient. In all, I must have been to the garage no more than 6 or seven times but she recognises me and knows the car I am bringing in.

When I called to collect my car at lunchtime today, she took the trouble to outline to me all the work that had been done and also go through the mechanics report on every aspect of the vehicle down to the grease on the door hinges. I call that thorough; it gives me peace of mind to know that all is well with my car.

I have got a problem with synchromesh on second gear, which the mechanic confirmed (sorry, they are called technicians these days!). Mercedes said that, in light of the low mileage on the car and its age, they were going to ask if Skoda would pay a percentage of the cost of repair. Now that would be nice, thank you Mercedes.

So, bottom line, if you have a Skoda, Audi, Seat or VW and live in the area– then give Rubio Movil a try. I m sure you will not be disappointed with the level of service they provide. 

Opening night

Last night, Darren and Hazel opened their very own bar in Bigastro and most of the residents from Villas Andrea were there to support them.

The bar is what used to be the Terrace Bar, opposite the Medical Centre, handy for when you have been to the doctor’s.




Darren told me that he and Hazel were very excited about this new venture and wanted people to know that this would be a bar to suit all ages and all nationalities – a truly cosmopolitan place offering drinks and snacks, day and night.

We all wish both Darren and Hazel great success with this new venture. If anyone deserves to succeed it is this couple because they work so damned hard to meet their customers needs. They are also such good people to know - the epitome of the genial hosts!

Give them a chance by popping in for a drink and a chat whenever you are down that way, even if it is only for a cup of coffee.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A word of advice

If you go down to the beach this summer, respect the lifeguards and the advice they give you. When there is a red flag flying – that means DO NOT GO INTO THE SEA.

It seems that people on La Mata beach are ignoring the flags and still going for a paddle. The Red Cross have had to rescue dozens of swimmers in the last few days. The sea surf may look OK but it is the undercurrents created by the easterly winds that are causing difficulty for bathers.

Worst of all, the members of the Red Cross have faced insults and even been attacked – crazy!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tour a-tacked

When you have just finished climbing a mountain with gradients as high as 20% and you are looking forward to a nice downhill run to the finish, the last thing you need is a puncture. Not that I have ever tackled a hill anywhere near as tough as the Mur de Péguère you understand but I have experienced punctures and on every occasion, a fair way from home. When, I was cycling seriously and riding longer distances, I carried both a repair kit and a spare inner tube, tools for removing the tyre and of course a pump. 

In the early days of the Tour de France, riders had to replace the tyre themselves just as I had to replace the inner tube on my bike. These days, they call up the service car and get a spare wheel or, in the case of a race leader, swap bikes with another member of the team.

In my case, most of the punctures were caused by local councils pruning the thorn hedging at the side of the road. Yesterday though, the punctures were a deliberate act of sabotage by a spectator who threw tacks on the road just before the peleton arrived. 

Thankfully, Bradley Wiggins, who also suffered a mechanical problem, slowed the peleton down to allow Evans to catch up. It is an unwritten rule amongst riders that they do not capitalise on misfortune, something that Alberto Contador forgot when Andy Schleck lost a chain last year.

As it happened, the race director neutralised the stage once it was clear there was a problem affecting many riders but he did praise Wiggins and the Sky team for taking the initiative and so has the French press.

The problem is that, unlike most other sports, the spectators get close to the action in cycling. The road up the mountain yesterday was very narrow and with spectators either side, there was barely room for two riders to pass through.

There have been a number of incidents involving spectators all ready this year; some think it is good to run alongside the riders, others wave banners in front of them, they throw water over the riders or push them. Already we have seen spectators with flares, one burnt Wiggins arm and jersey. When they throw tacks in the road though, that is dangerous especially when the riders are about to descend. It used to happen a lot years ago, let’s hope it stops right now.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Print exhibition

carte 2From the 16th to the 28th July, you can see an exhibition of prints by Elena Toreli at the Municipal Auditorium Francisco Grau, Bigastro.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tom Simpson RIP

sport-graphics-2007_706068aTom Simpson was the leader of the GB cycling team, he was BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1965 and was admired by all for his bulldog sprit.

He’d won the world championships two years before and finished sixth in the Tour of 1962.  The last two Tours though he had failed to finish due to illness.

Preparation in 1967 was good, he’d won the Paris-Nice but then had to be dragged off his bike during the Vuelta. He’d already won two stages in Spain but on the on the ascent of Port d'Envalira in the Pyrenees he started wandering across the road.

Then came the Tour de France

Mont Ventoux is brutal and Simpson had suffered from terrible gastric problems days before such that the mechanic had to hose down his bike. That day he was rationed to four bottles of water and so was already dehydrated on a scorcher where temperatures reached 54. Reports say that he went into a cafe with other riders and drank coke with brandy to try and ease his stomach problems.

The final pictures of Simpson, taken from a press motorbike, show how depleted he actually was. His cheeks were hollow, his eyes were sunken and desperate, his skin was pale  and parched with dehydration. Finally he fell off his bike and got back on only to fall again. The Tour  doctor tried to resuscitate him but it was hopeless. He was airlifted to Avignon where he died at 5:40pm.

The post mortem found amphetamines and alcohol in his blood and there were amphetamines in both  his jersey pocket and in the team car.  Amphetamines aren't of course performance enhancing, they mask reality with short buzzes of euphoria.

The 21km climb with gradients from 8 to 14 percent was just too much for Simpson in his weakened state especially when he came out from the forest area to the arid landscape at the top of Mont Ventoux, Sadly, he paid the ultimate price.

Viva Gran Bretaña

In 2000, David Millar won the prologue in the Tour de France and wore the yellow jersey for three days. In 2002 he was first on stage 13 of Le Tour. In 2003 he won a further stage in the Tour and then went on to win the world time trial title. Then things went horribly wrong for him because he was banned from racing for two years following his admission about doping and the time trial title was taken from him. He came back though and won the Commonwealth time trial gold in 2010 and in 2011 became the first British rider to wear the leaders jersey in theTour de France, the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a Espana.

Now he has added another stage victory to his CV as he won the on yesterday’s stage from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Annonay Davezieux by beating Jean-Christopher Peraud in the sprint. It was a particularly appropriate win because it marked the anniversary of the death of the British riderTom Simpson 40 years before on Mont Ventoux.

Now, all four of Britain’s hopes for the Olympics, Mark Cavendish, Christopher Froome, Bradley Wiggins and David Millar have won stages in this year’s Tour.

English immersion success in Orihuela

It seems that Orihuela has been successful in organising English sessions for Spanish children during their summer holiday.  In collaboration with the local residents at Entrenaranjos, 106 children have engaged in activities which mean that they have had to practice their spoken English.

It hasn’t all been all work and no play though because the learning sessions have been complemented by the children practising golf and bowling at Vistabella Golf Club and this last week they put on a show for their parents and friends.

The scheme that Aurelio tried to organise for Bigastro faltered when only four children signed up to take part in sessions with British residents from Villas Andrea. In light of the success of the scheme in Orihuela, we need to take lessons in how best to organise our scheme for next year. 

Not all bad news

Whilst the Eurozone crisis may have cast doom and gloom over countries like Spain and Italy it has brought some relief to those of us on UK pensions. At the end of 2009 going into 2010, the pound weakened against the euro and we were getting 1 euro the the pound in exchange. That was a big drop from the 1.5 euros that we had been used to when we first came here. You don’t need to be a mathematics expert to figure out we had lost one third of our spending power.

Now, the tables have been turned a little and we are getting 1.27 euros to the pound which is just as well considering the recent hikes in IBA that we will have to pay for our shopping.

Bloody Ryanair

Remember the tax increase that the government imposed on Spanish airports?

It seems that Ryanair have decided that passengers should pay it and have written to those who booked before 1st July to tell them their credit cards will be debited for the amount.

So how much are we talking about?

In the case of Alicante – 1.92 Euros: Murcia – 1.72 Euros and Valencia – 1.87 Euros. The passengers at Madrid Barajas and Barcelona El Prat are the worst effected because they will pay 9.12 and 8.95 Euros respectively.

Pamela and I booked flights to and from Barcelona but made the booking on the 3rd so we will have already paid the extra tax. This is the first time we will have flown with Ryanair and it will hopefully be the last! Their booking system is a minefield where you have to opt out of things like insurance rather than opt in and the final price is a massive hike on the advertised price.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Hard to believe

keith Keith Richards as he was
images As he is now
The Rolling Stones are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first-ever live performance, which took place at the Marquee Club in London on 12 July 1962.
I’d like to say they weathered well but that would not be true. The music though is as fresh as ever and the energy they put into concerts is just the same.

Pete says, "This is the guy whose health regime was to quit heroin and stick to the cocaine. I swear to God he's not human." Pete, he doesn't look all that human in the second photo. I've seen less scary aliens than Richards!

Moors and Christians

Normally, Pam and I would park on that road that goes up from the roundabout at Eroski and cross over the railway line via the footbridge at the top. The problem is that the bridge is now closed presumably because they are building the new high speed railway line.

Our alternative route (as supplied by scout John) is to take the road to Hurchillo, turn right at the petrol station and follow the pipeline down. When we pass under the pipeline continue straight across on the CV-921, around the roundabout and over the flyover and then park up on the road up to Lidl supermarket. That takes us close to the start of the parades on Carrer de Aragon. Pam and I normally take up seats on Carrer de Sant Agusti opposite the bars.

Remember it is Christians on Friday 20th and Moors on Saturday 21st.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Draconian measures

Remember that Mariano Rajoy told us that there would be no strings attached to the 100 million Euro bailout of the banks – well that was not true. For one thing, the banking sector will be under constant scrutiny by the EU – a bit like schools in Britain under “special measures” following a bad OFSTED report.

We would have expected banks to suffer but then, in his speech yesterday, Mr Rajoy said VAT will rise from 18pc to 21pc – though a 4pc rate will remain for food – breaching one of his key election pledges. “These are not pleasant measures. I said I would cut taxes and I am raising them. Circumstances have changed,” he said.

“Our public spending exceeds our income by tens of billions of Euros. We have to get out of this mess and we have to do it as soon as possible. This is the reality that we face,”

Unemployment benefits will be cut. Interest on mortgages will no longer be tax deductable. Public employees will lose their Christmas bonus – a de facto pay cut – and will have to work longer, prompting a general strike threat from the country’s unions.

United Left leader Cayo Lara said Spain was now under “full-blown” occupation, accusing the government of “throwing petrol on to the country’s streets”.

The cuts come at a grim time, as Mr Rajoy himself admitted. “Never before has the Spanish economy suffered two back-to-back recessions of such severity. In the last year, unemployment has risen by half a million people and 32,094 businesses have closed.”

There is no doubt that these measures will cause tension and social unrest. Asturian miners are already clashing with the police in Madrid, that may only be the start. 

In concert

20120710_urq A chance to see Javier Urquijo, a former member and founder of the secret and its people.

Saturday July 28th at 10pm in the Municipal Auditorium Francisco Grau.

Dance festival



A chance to see students from the Estafania Selfa School of Dance perform in their end of course festival.

Friday, July 13th, at 10pm in the Municipal Auditorium Francisco Grau.

Ready for August

You can have a peak at the programme for this year’s fiesta by following this link.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Add the wine before cooking

We all know that chicken tastes so much better when it is cooked in wine and that Japanese Kobe beef reared on beer is highly regarded. Meat and alcohol just seem to get on well together.

A farmer in France has now taken this to a logical conclusion by feeding three of his cows on a mixture of wine,  barley, hay and grapes. The wine came from Saint-Genies des Mourgues in the Languedoc.

In Paris, the meat has already been well received for its special texture, its marbling, its tenderness and the way it caramelises during cooking. 

Of course, feeding cows on a litre and a half or fine wine a day means that the meat does not come cheap - I doubt we will find it in Mercadona. .

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dogged again by scandal

It seems that doping in cycling is never going to go away. The scandal of taking drugs to boost performance hangs like a cloud over the Tour year after year. Most recently, Alberto Contador was banned from taking part after testing positive for Clenbuterol and of course Lance Armstrong faces an enquiry in America which is determined to ban him and take away all of his Tour wins including the proceeds.

Now we read that the the French cyclist Rémy Di Gregorio, who rides for Cofidis, has been detained for questioning by the French police in Marseille. This follows investigations last year about his involvement into trafficking banned substances. Police conducted a dawn raid on the hotel in Bourg-en-Bresse where the team are staying and arrested Di Gregorio along with two others.

Cofidis have reacted quickly by suspending the rider as a matter of precaution. You will recall that the team withdrew from the 2007 Tour when Christian Mernis failed an anti-doping test during the race. This time, they are confident that this is an isolated incident and will there fore continue with the Tour. They say, if the allegations are true then Di Gregorio will be sacked on the spot.  

The recent history of doping dates back to the 2006 Tour when Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso were withdrawn for their connections with the Spanish police investigation Operation Puerto. In the same year Floyd Landis tested positive for testosterone after the race.

A year later the holder of the yellow jersey, Michael Rasmussen, was withdrawn by his Robank team for his failure to explain a series of missed drugs tests, while Alexandre Vinokourov tested positive for blood doping and Christian Moreni for testosterone.

The following year King of the Mountains jersey winner Bernard Kohl from Austria tested positive for a form of EPO.

New markets for Eurener

Eurener, the Bigastro based company, who manufacturer photovoltaic solar panels have over over 15 years of experience in the field.

Now they are expanding their activity in Latin America with the opening of new offices in Ecuador and Brazil. Eurener say that this area shows great potential and plays an important role in their expansion plans.

Looking good

Wiggins rode an incredible time trial yesterday taking a lot of time out of his nearest rival Cadel Evans. His team mate Chris Froome came second and jumped up the leader board to third place. That puts Sky, Wiggins and Froome in a very good position but what have they yet to face?
The Daily Telegraph sums it up very well:
July 10: Rest day Wiggins hates rest days hates rest days with a real passion and will go for a hard three-to-four-hour ride, including a mountain climb, to stop his body from closing down and lapsing into "repair mode". And then will come the crucial set-piece yellow jersey’s press conference with the world’s press and broadcasters. Wiggins had his rant, following smears about his performances, and needs to bite his tongue from now on.
July 12: Stage 11
This is a brutal Alpine stage. featuring 91 miles of torture and three of the hardest mountain climbs of the entire Tour, including the beautiful, but heartbreaking, Col de la Madeleine and the fearsome Col de la Croix de Fer. which tops out at 2,067 metres. Vincenzo Nibali is likely to launch an attack on Wiggins here and Cadel Evans, the Sky man’s chief rival for overall victory, might go with the Italian.

July 18: Stage 16
Another crucial mountain stage in the Pyrenees starting in Pau and featuring all the classics of the region from the mighty Tourmalet (2,115m) downwards. It covers 122 miles and it is expected to be very hot, possibly over 35C. It comes after the Tour’s second rest day so Wiggins and Sky need to be on the case from the start. They will, possibly, ride out before breakfast to prepare

July 19: Stage 17
The Pyrenees punishment continues, covering almost 90 miles and featuring a truly sadistic mountain-top finish on the Peyragudes when the attacks on Wiggins will come one after another on the nine-mile climb to the summit. This is where Chris Froome, a revelation on the Tour so far, must dig deep for his Sky leader, chase down any attacks and then guide Wiggins to the summit.

July 21: Stage 19
This 32-mile time-trial from, Bonneval to Chartres, is Wiggins’s banker if things go wrong in the mountains. Ideally he will still be in the lead going to the start line but he is comfortably the best time-trial rider among the favourites and could pull back two to three minutes if necessary. The leader after this stage is effectively the Tour de France champion. The ride into Paris is just a champagne-swilling promenade.

Just to give you some idea of what these lumps of rock are like:

Moya on the bench

The former mayor of Bigastro, Joaquín Moya is in court now to answer to charges related to the sale of land at La Pedrera in 2005. The land was sold to "Promociones Alicante Torrevieja" otherwise known as Idearco to allow them to build a spa hotel.

The prosecution claims that the ex  mayor along with the secretary, Antonio Saseta and the socialist councillors,  María del Carmen Grau Espinosa and María Jesús Torres García failed to follow proper procedures during the sale. Apart from the fact that approval for building had not been granted in Valencia, the claim is that the sale was rigged in favour of Idearco who were awarded the contract before the deadline for submissions had passed.

Even if he is found not guilty on this charge, there are two further cases against the ex mayor that are still pending.

Monday, July 09, 2012

The French celebrate

It did not turn out to be Murray’s day yesterday as Federer won his seventh Wimbledon title. It was however a good day for the French as one of their cyclists won the stage in the Tour de France. Thibaut Pinot rode a clever race beating Alexander Kessiakoff at the top of the last climb of the day. Marc Madiot,, the team director was ecstatic as were Pinot’s team mates who came to the podium to congratulate him.

Today is the individual time trial when we will see if Bradley Wiggins can hold off the contenders to his yellow jersey. He held off the other pretenders to his jersey yesterday and the scurrilous American reporter who tried to imply that his form was due to drugs. The French and Spanish press are out to derail Wiggins by comparing his improvement in performance with that off Lance Armstrong when he rode with the US Postal and Discovery teams.

Scheme scrapped

I had a phone call yesterday from Aurelio about the plan for us to accommodate Spanish children during July and help them practice their English. As I suspected from a previous conversation, interest in the scheme has been poor- there were only four takers.

To be honest I was not surprised. If I was a young Spaniard on my summer holiday faced with the choice of visiting British pensioners two or three times a week to practice my English or going to the beach with my friends, I would choose the beach.

Aurelio has therefore decided to scrap the scheme for this year and maybe revisit it again next year.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Britain in yellow

It may be a washout in Blighty with rivers in danger of bursting their banks but on the La Planche des Belles Filles it was sunshine and bright yellow for one Brit.

Yesterday’s stage in the Tour de France could have gone different ways.

The peleton could have chosen to allow the breakaway group of riders to fight it out between them, after all none of the riders at the front posed a challenge to the potential race leaders.

That didn’t happen though as the teams at the front of the peleton drove the cyclists behind them on. Teams like BMC and Sky wanted to protect their leaders from the possibility of being involved in the crashes that have occurred further back so that tactic made good sense.

What we did not expect was that Sky would launch an attack on the last climb of the day. It was only 6kms in length but was brutal in sections with very steep gradients up to 14% that even a car would have difficulty coping with in anything but a low gear.

The attack paid off as Chris Froome surged ahead at the end to win the stage and Bradley Wiggins moved into the yellow jersey.

The first Briton to wear the yellow jersey was Tom Simpson, the last Briton to have this honour was David Millar who won the prologue time trial in 2000. Chris Boardman, a prologue specialist,  had the yellow jersey in 1994, 1997 and 1998. The other Brits to wear it were Sean Yates in 1994 and Simpson in 1962.

Could it be that Wiggins, who came fourth in 2009, will be able to carry the jersey to Paris? There is a lot of racing yet to come and some serous challengers in Cadel Evans and Vincenzo Nibali who are only 10 and 16 seconds behind him and look better in the long mountain climbs.

Wiggins has already won the the Paris-Nice in March, the Tour de Romandie in early May, the Critérium du Dauphiné stage race in early June and is the bookies favourite.

PS Spare a thought for Brice Feillu who, after one week, is 55 minutes and 24 seconds behind Wiggins.

PPS Before anyone points it out, Wiggins was born in  Belgium and Froome was born in Kenya. 

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Not taking any risks

Untitled-1 copyIt looks as if someone might have hacked into one of my favourite sites. That’s a bummer for Germán to sort out but I’m sure he will be on the case real soon. 

Rain, rain go away

After a very wet April (the wettest on record)  and an horrendous June (with twice the average rainfall), Britain faces even more rain this weekend. Forecasters are predicting the worst weather this year with over a months worth of rain falling in the 24 hours from Friday.

At Silverstone, where the Grand Prix is scheduled for Sunday, spectators for today’s practice have been asked to stay away to allow the car parks to dry out before the big day.

If the rain continues into Sunday, the race itself may have to be abandoned because the track will be just too dangerous. 

Sheer carnage

The first week of the Tour de France has been as much about the crashes that have occurred as the winners on the podium. Yesterday saw two big crashes, the first at 35km and then a huge crash at 25km from the finish.

Twenty seven riders were officially listed as injured but then more were treated by their team doctors. Ten riders were taken to hospital suffering from loss of consciousness to deep cuts and dislocations.

Some of the riders had already been involved in crashes in the days before. Watching the coverage on TV it is like the walking wounded with rider after rider bandaged up.

What is left of the peloton will enter into the low mountains today with a steep finish that could cause some tired legs.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Get behind your band

20120705_cullera Bigastro band will be taking part in a competition for “music from the films” in Cullera ( north of Gandia).  

They are laying on a coach to take people who want to support the band at a cost of 15 Euros for non-band members.


Musicians from Bigastro took part in a competition in Cox. In all there were 200 taking part from 23 Musical Societies so competition was stiff.

All credit therefore goes to the following from Bigastro who won prizes:
-    PABLO GRAU MURCIA (Percussion) …………………….FIRST PRIZE
-    MARÍA DÍAZ ESQUIVA (Clarinet) …………….……….. SECOND PRIZE


The copayment system started on Monday. Those of you who have been to collect medicines will have been asked to make a payment even if you have “red” prescriptions. For example, Pamela was asked to pay 5 Euros for her two prescriptions. Others will be asked to pay more or less depending upon the cost of their medication. All British pensioners will, I presume, come into the 1st category because the system can only know about our state pensions.

In a reciprocal agreement, the UK government pays £3,500 a year for each retiree to receive Spanish health care. This entitles them to the same care as a Spanish citizen except that now, we will have to contribute to the cost of the prescriptions.

The charges for prescriptions are levied as follows:
•    An annual income of under 18,000€: workers pay 40% of prescription charges; pensioners 10% capped at 8€ per month.
•    An annual income of 18,000€ to 100,000€: workers pay 50% of charges; pensioners 10% of charges capped at 18€ per month.
•    An annual income of over 100,000€: workers pay 60% of charges; pensioners 60% capped at 60€ a month.

Shocking news

My British readers may be surprised to read this story from the local newspaper:

Iberdrola has located up to 75 illegal connections to the mains in the town of Orihuela. The homes, located in the districts of Castillo, Capuchinos and Rabaloche, were connected directly to supply, without a contract or a meter, thus avoiding paying the bills. The discovery was possible thanks to the technicians of Iberdrola who,together with the National Police, have identified the homeowners. The illegal connections have been cut and the company will take legal action for fraud.

You have to remember that, in old parts of the city, the cables are strung along the streets making it possible to have a direct connection. It must be a risky business though. The thing is, Iberdrola know that, soon after they have cut the connection, the people will remake it.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

You get what you pay for

I set up my new softbox on the light stand ready to try it out with a self portrait. Flashgun in place and wireless flash trigger working fine, I was ready to start experimenting.

In order to fire the camera from where I was sitting, I fitted my Yongnuo wireless shutter trigger and that’s where I faced a problem.

The receiver, which fits to the camera, has a removable battery so that worked fine but the transmitter was dead and the only way to get inside that unit was by taking out two of the tiniest little screws you have ever seen. They are so small, even my jewellers screwdriver would not move them.

So I have come to the conclusion that they are not meant to be taken out which means that, when the battery is dead, the unit is defunct. To be fair, the Yongnuo was cheap but even still, I’d expect it to work for more than a couple of years.

I guess I will just have to spend more money on something a bit more reliable which has batteries that you can easily remove.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Good for the soul

Like most people, we accumulate paperwork. Utility bills, bank statements, tax returns etc all get carefully filed away and never see the light of day again. Then we get to the point where the filing cabinet is full and it is impossible to jam any more paper into it. That is the time when we ask, “do we really need all this paper?”

There are some things that I like to keep, for example the documents about our houses and cars. It is fascinating to look back on those and see just how little we paid for things back in the 70s. The first house we bought cost us £7,500 which seemed like a fortune at the time. The first new car we had cost £1,500 – you could pay that just for a service on some cars these days.

Now we have a bin bag full of redundant paperwork to get rid of and yes, anything that includes account details has been shredded. There is room again in the filing cabinet and we have the satisfaction of knowing that we have gained some space and some order back to our lives.

Having cleared the filing cabinet, I really need to attack the shed and my “toy cupboard” – there must be quite a bit of gathered junk in those two spaces that would give us even more room.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Comment in the press

I found this comment about the photos in El Pais of Spaniards celebrating last night.

Nueva receta: Espaguetis a la Española, con salsa de tomate y dos huevos encima. . .

Very good!

Moors & Christians 2012

You can find the full programme for this year’s Moors and Christians in Orihuela here.

For those interested in seeing the parades, the dates are Friday 20th July for the Christians and Saturday, 21st July for the Moors.

Into the record books

European champions, then World champions and now European champions again. What a glorious night for Spain as the country watched their team sail through and annihilate Italy with four wonderful goals.

Even for non fans like Pam and I it was a huge pleasure and privilege to see La Roja play. Iniesta, Xavi, Alonso, Fábregas – such creative footballers who play with grace and finesse. The first half of the game was just beautiful.

Speaking of records, which other team do you now who have played so many games in a knockout competition without conceding a goal?

Many comparisons will now be drawn between Spain and other world class teams of the past. Are they better than Brazil were with Pele or Germany, Italy, France and Holland at their best? It doesn't matter because since 2008, Spain have dominated world football and even if they falter in 2014, nobody can take this achievement away from them.

There is nothing more to be said, the country might be on its backside financially but it can hold its head up on the world stage as far as football is concerned.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Taking a risk

It was our friend David’s birthday so he and his wife Rachael were going out for dinner to celebrate and they invited us along.
Interior The restaurant they had chosen was the Angelin in Beniel. It was a place where they had enjoyed tapas at lunchtime but never eaten at night.

Beniel is eight kilometres from Bigastro so the journey was short. When we arrived there were only a handful of people at the bar and nobody dining so we had a choice of tables.

The menu was enticing with an excellent selection of seafood and fish. There were also plenty of meat dishes which was just as well because Pamela is not a lover of seafood and will avoid most fish.

David and I fancied the arroz con bougavent (lobster paella) but unfortunately they could not produce paella that night so he settled for an entrecot steak and I had dorada la plancha. Pamela had escalope (veal) and Rachael had pechuga de pollo. All of the dishes were delicious as were our starters and desserts.

When the bill came we were treated to small glasses of liquor and even seconds!

So all in all, a splendid evening in good company. It is a restaurant that I would heartily recommend and we will certainly visit again.
The other speciality of the restaurant is jamon de jabugo.
82578715.vP4Omzuf Jabugo, in the Huelva province of Andalucia, is one of the least picturesque villages in the Sierra, with its abattoirs and factories littering the outskirts. However, it is the best place to buy the famous cured ham and other pork products which are produced there.

For many Spanish people, Jabugo is shorthand for jamón Ibérico or pata negra (so-called because of the Iberian pig's distinctive black trotters). The finest - and most expensive - grade of cured ham is called bellota, a reference to the major component of the pigs' diet of acorns which hare abundant in the oak forests around the town. The cold winters and warm summers with cool nights also make the curing process in Jabugo special.
Getting to Restaurant Angelin is quite simple, take the road to Hurchillo out of Bigastro. Pass through the town on the way to Beniel and drive under the pipeline. Continue on that road taking the one way system through Beniel and then on the right you will find the restaurant and on the left the large car park that serves it.