Sunday, April 29, 2012
With the changing face of tourism in the town, it is the weekend all inclusive packages that draw stag and hen parties there. Lots of sun, lots of beer and lots of girls or boys and a price of less than a hundred Euros draws the parties in. Benidorm ranks as the number ten choice for these type of parties amongst the Brits.
It isn’t just British stag parties though that head to Benidorm, the Spanish also flock there to celebrate the last nights of freedom. Whilst the Brits prefer the Rincon de Loix , the Spaniards like the old town and the clubs of Levante beach.
Of course, there is still a large trade to be had with adults seeking something a little more cultural but again, it is adults only.
Benidorm is trying to find ways to accommodate all; families, young people who want to be away from children. stag and hen parties and gays looking for somewhere that is gay friendly. It isn’t easy to cover all these diverse interests but then Benidorm is perhaps big enough to cope without them all spilling into each other. It kind of works in Blackpool so maybe it will work in Benidorm.
My interest in photography lead me inextricably to an article in the newspaper Información about the Darblade family.
In 1867, the Darblade family left the town of Agen in south west France bound for Murcia. The eldest child fell ill with typhoid and they were advised to stop in Torrevieja whilst he recovered. Having set up camp in the town, they opened a photographic studio, possibly the only one in the Alicante and Murcia provinces.
They started taking pictures using a 18 x 24 plate camera, recording the fishing port and the people of Torrevieja. As their fame spread, so people came to have their pictures taken by the French photographer.
Albert, who had recovered from his illness, followed his father into the business and when Jean died during the Spanish Civil War, he took over. In all three generations of the family worked as photographers in Torrevieja chronicling the life and development of the town. The name still lives on with the firm Darblade-Conesa.
It would be nice to think that my photographs of events in Bigastro might eventually serve a similar purpose. Who knows, in 100 years or maybe less, people will look back to the record I have made of the town with the same fascination that we have for the Darblade pictures.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
On Wednesday, Pam and I went down to the branch of our bank where the main account is held. Whilst we were there, we passed the offices of Euro Anglo Sur, the company we bought our house through. We did wonder whether they would still be operating now that the sale of new houses is virtually at a standstill and were pleased to see they are still open for business but are now called Euro Prestige. If you search their site, you will find they are involved in a number of developments throughout the area.
In the windows of their head office, were a selection of houses for sale including new builds. Of special interest to us were the houses almost identical to ours and others on our estate which are being built at Las Kalendas, Fortuna. There is a website for the community there which shows photos of the area. However, there are also photos of the area which show desolate streets, shoddy construction and empty houses. It seems that part of the development is complete and has a thriving community but other parts are just vacant plots. Quite who the builders are is not clear, it certainly isn’t StarSol who no longer exist.
The former mayor, Raúl Valerio Medina, the treasurer, Mari Carmen Alonso and the secretary Antonio Sáseta are accused of crimes such as embezzlement of public funds, subsidy fraud, fraud and extortion and falsification of documents. The judge in Orihuela has now decided that the claims made against them are admissible.
This case relates to work on Avenida Apatel which was funded by government money under Plan E. The company, Pastor Median completed the work but were only paid 70% of the money owed to them. It seems that the rest of the grant was diverted to pay for other things. In these circumstances, the government would require the full amount of the grant to be repaid to them.
The court has also set June 13th as the date for the trial of José Joaquín Moya in relation to the case of ‘La Pedrera’. Also implicated in this one are Mari Carmen Grau, María Jesús Torres, and the municipal secretary, Antonio Sáseta.
This case relates to the sale of land to the company Idearco who paid the council 2m Euros to build a hotel, apartments, a spa, golf course, exhibition halls, a restaurant etc at the top of our road. The plan was not approved by the regional government and so had to be scrapped. Even if the plan had been passed, the complex would not have been completed because Idearco ran out of money several years later.
If found guilty of the charges against him, the former mayor faces a ban from public office of up to 9 years and the others 8 years. In a sense, this is all academic because Moya resigned as mayor and from his party anyway. You do see him around the town from time to time but these days most people seem to distance themselves from him.
In my opinion, it would have been better if the socialists had lost the 2007 election. However, that was never going to happen because over the many years of his tenure as mayor, Moya had built up enough votes to see him and his party elected time after time. People in the town either worked for the council or members of their families did. It is also claimed that 180 houses in the town did not pay council tax in return for their votes. My understanding is that the socialists had a stranglehold on the town’s voting population.
At the 2007 election, Aurelio Murcia became spokesperson of the opposition party and the socialists faced a serious challenge to their position. It was he, José Antonio Ricart before him and the PP party brought cases against the socialist mayor and members of his party. In council meeting after council meeting, Murcia challenged Moya and then Medina who followed him. It was only then that the level of corruption became clear to people and they felt confident to vote for the opposition.
At the next election, the PP party dropped Aurelio Murcia because they felt he had too many enemies in the town. They thought they would stand a better chance of gaining power if they had someone more acceptable as their leader and chose Charo Bañuls. Murcia went on to form his own Liberal Central party and gained two seats on the council. In a coalition with the PP, that was enough to unseat the socialists.
Friday, April 27, 2012
You may well have exhausted your supply of books over the cold winter months and are looking for something new to get into. You could order a supply of novels from Amazon or go down to Carrefour and browse the selection of tomes in English they have on sale but I have a better and much cheaper solution for you.
Why not wander up to the La Pedrera Library this Sunday between 3 and 4:30pm and select something from the hundreds of titles they have in store. With such a wide selection available, there is bound to be something to suit your tastes. And, whilst you are there, why not drop off some of those novels that have been taking up space on your shelves, the ones you have read many times. I am sure there is bound to be someone else who will be only too pleased to get their nose into your cast offs.
PS A Kindle will cost you from £89 upwards (that is without a case) and at least a couple of quid per book to download. Just think how much money you could save and the useful exercise you will get by walking up to La Pedrera! ¡Animate!
Things have not been good for Barcelona Football Club this last week. First they lost to Real Madrid which effectively means they will not win the league this year, then they lost out to Chelsea in the Champions’ League and now their coach says he will be leaving at the end of this season.
In his statement to the press, he said that four years as coach was enough. The drive that he had has gone and he needs a rest. Quite what that says about a manager like Alex Ferguson who took over at Manchester United in 1986 and has led the team to countless victories since I don’t know. Still, the decision has been taken and Barcelona will enter a new phase with a new coach.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
I know that a lot of local people enjoy the photos that I take of events in the town. It may be that some of them would like a copy of a photo or two to save to their computer and even print out. Well soon you will be able to because I am in the process of uploading the photos I took of the catwalk parade and the gala for Manos Unidos into the the public folder of my Microsoft SkyDrive and here is the link.
Of course, if there are photos that you would prefer me not to share in this way, I will remove them. Please let me know by sending me an email with the numbers of the photos you want removing.
PS You will notice that when they turned on the spotlight directed down the catwalk, it acted like bleach on the faces removing all the colour and any shadows – just awful.
Children from the infant school La Paz, have linked up with a young boy, Manu and his family to help them. It seems that Manu, who lives in nearby Jacarilla, is not very well and needs an organ transplant. So the children are doing what they can to support him and his family.
As one of the series of activities that the children will be involved with, they have created and exhibition of: collages, paintings, prints ... etc. The theme is lines, colours and shapes inspired by artists like Kandinsky, Sonia Delaunay, Paul Klee ...
The exhibition will run from the 24th to the 26th April in the multipurpose room of the Municipal Auditorium Francisco Grau.
For those with nimble fingers and a desire to learn. Teresa Garcia Belmonte is running a workshop on ganchillo, bollilos, ponto de cruz, molde and costura which I know you understand means crochet, lace work, cross point, knitting and sewing.
The times are Mondays and Wednesdays at 5pm – not sure when they start though.
My mother did teach me how to knit when I was young but I found that too boring. However she also taught me how to sew using a machine.
In my late twenties -early thirties I made a number of garments: clothes for the children and costumes for their performances on the stage, dresses for my wife and various items for myself including a very useful pair of waterproof over trousers for cycling which even had a Pertex lining to wick sweat away.
You know there’s more to me than just a shutter clicking finger!
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
It was good that Aquagest finally resolved the leaks in the pipe work under the road by the pumping station. What was not good was that to effect the repair they had to dig up the road in three places.
They filled the holes in with gravel which is a darn sight better than just using soil but they have still sunk leaving suspension crashing dips in the road. Further down towards the town, the constructors of the new house dug a trench across the road to bring services to the building. There they did fill it with soil which we know will wash away the next time we have any rain.
It isn’t just residents of Villas Andrea that use the road, visitors to La Predrera use it as well including the coach loads of children who come to the area for their rural studies. Whilst you can detour around the dips with a car, it might not be so easy to avoid them with a coach. Added to which, the refuse collection lorries must suffer each night as they come to empty the bins.
I understand that it makes sense to let the gravel settle before laying a layer of tarmac but even still, I reckon the company responsible for the work should return now to top up the gravel and ensure that the road is at least level.
When they do eventually decide to lay some tarmac, I hope that they fill in the dips in the road that lay just round the corner which were also caused by the problems at the water pumping station. That bumpy bit of road has been like that for a few years now.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
The cost cutting on health has already started. For the first time, those of us with red prescriptions will have to contribute to the cost of our drugs.
People who earn over 100,000 Euros per year will have to pay 60% of the cost of their prescriptions, those who earn between 18,000 and 100,000 Euros will pay 50% and those earning less than 18,000 Euros will pay 40%.
As for pensioners, I have read two versions of this. In the one, we will be asked to pay 10% of the cost of our prescriptions unless of course we have a pension in excess of 100,000 Euros (I wish) in which case we’d pay 60%. In the other version, the new 'copago' system means that pensioners earning €22,000 or less per year will have to pay up to a maximum of eight Euros extra per month for medicines while those earning more than €22,000 will have to pay an extra €18. I’ve read the second version several times so that is presumably the one which is most accurate.
However, whichever version is correct, it seems that we will no longer get free prescriptions. I guess that means that some will decide to no longer take the pills they are prescribed.
Since their performances are for the most part visual, it won’t matter that your Spanish is not up to it.
Here in Spain, the lure of jobs in the city has taken young ladies from their rural towns to move to places like Madrid to find work. It seems that his has caused a problem though because with a shortage of ladies, the small towns’ populations are on the decline.
In 1995, a group called Acocamu set up to promote repopulation of rural towns. They organised parties for single men and women by bussing the ladies in from nearby cities especially for the events.
Apparently the scheme has enjoyed a lot of success and in some cases the meetings have led to marriage.
I don’t think Bigastro needs to take such measures, from what I have seen there are plenty of eligible young ladies in the town. For whatever reason, my camera seems to be drawn to them on occasions like fiestas!
The weather over the last few days has suddenly changed to summer. Apart from a spell of strong winds yesterday and cloud for an hour or so in Sunday, it has been glorious.
Could it be that the cold winter we experienced this year is over? I can tell you we are glad to see the back of that wind which rattled the fly screen on the kitchen door. Would I be tempting fate if I got my shorts out, I wonder?
Monday, April 23, 2012
There are a few words in Spanish that we enjoy for the way they sound: one example is equipaje (pronounced ekipaki) which is luggage and another is maquillaje (pronounced makiyaki) which is makeup.
Those of you who have looked at my album from the Gala last night may be wondering just what was going on with the dancers at the end.
I will try and explain
The dancers started in two lines facing each other. Then they joined their partners and formed a circle. Not content with dancing in a circle, they then performed some convoluting moves to change partners moving to the left or right.
They repeated this manoeuvre several times with perfect timing and fluidity. Nobody lost a partner nor gained two and nobody tripped up as they weaved in and out. It was fascinating to watch.
I reckon you’d have to see it in slow motion to understand the complexity of the task they performed. Marks out of 10 were 10 from all judges.
Just to prove that it isn’t just in music that the people of Bigastro are talented, last night they put on a show in aid of the charity Manos Unidos. For the 5 Euro entry fee we got a superb night of entertainment. Dancing, singing, music – short of comedy – this show had the lot.
Actually, there was a comic moment when the town’s priest won a prize in the raffle consisting of jewellery and other items suited to a lady.
You can see my pictures from the event here.
A very busy weekend – I sold my old lens on Ebay and so had to deal with that and then we had the catwalk show Saturday night. Friends came round for lunch on Sunday and finally, we took them down to see the Gala in aid of Manos Unidos (more from that later).
For the moment, let’s deal with the catwalk show on Saturday. The weather was just perfect, the stage was set and on came the little children dressed up in the finest of clothes. Then we had the older children and finally the adults.
There was something to please everyone, clothes, hairstyles, makeup, flowers and dancing by students from the Estafania Selfa School. It was a truly stunning display which must have taken the organisers a lot of time to prepare but it was all worth it. The models, the children and the clothes looked stunning.
Inevitable I took lots of photos which then involved me in hours of work processing them. You can see them by clicking on the album in the sidebar or clicking on this link.
Saturday, April 21, 2012
One of the most notable things we found about Spain when we arrived was loyalty to the royal family. Unlike the royals in Britain that we had left behind, those in Spain were seen as hard working, frugal, modern in outlook and very much loved by the majority of Spaniards until recently that is.
When the austerity measures imposed by government cuts started to bite and unemployment hit 24%, the king said he lay awake at nights worrying about the young jobless in his country.
However, when he fell en route to the bathroom at an exclusive safari camp in Botswana where he had gone to shoot elephants things changed. It is said that the holiday cost !0,000 Euros per day, paid by a Syrian businessman close to the Saudi royal family. No matter, the fact that the king was even there was enough to enrage many Spaniards facing hardship.
If that was all it would be bad enough but when you also read that his son-in-law, Iñaki Urdangarín, Duke of Palma is involved in a corruption scandal then matters get worse.
It also didn’t help when his 13-year-old grandson, Froilán Marichalar, shot himself through the foot with a 36-calibre shotgun just a few days before the Botswana incident. The grandson was of course too young to be using a gun legally and although the incident occurred on private property, it has still caused a huge stir.
Even in his private life, the king does not escape from scandal. It is public knowledge that his marriage to Queen Sofia has failed and that he is linked romantically with a German aristocrat.
Just to remind you, there is a Gala del Comercio’s organised for today in the park. The catwalk parade is timed for 8pm tonight.
I know that my neighbour, Eladia, who was very much involved in last week’s Feria de Sevillanas. will be busy today working on makeup from her salon in town near the park.
It looks like the weather will be a lot kinder this week with no rain predicted, light winds and temperatures in the day of 24 degrees.
Of course, for those who want to just stroll down for a drink and a snack, the bars will be all open to serve their needs.
However, for many, nothing will come in the way of watching “El Clasico” between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Real Madrid currently top La Liga with 85 points, Barcelona trail by four points and there are five games left to play. It is also a clash between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo who have both scored 41 goals this season. At least one camp of supporters will be celebrating tonight!
The new shopping mall at La Zenia is due to open in November and although I am not a huge fan of shopping malls at least this one will save a trail to Murcia when Pamela wants to buy from Primark and whilst she is in Primark, I can pop into Leroy Merlin.
It’s a man thing, we may not be interested in buying anything in particular, but we love looking in DIY shops just to browse. Of course, if there is a computer shop or a camera shop, even an electrical store, I will be looking in there as well.
With planned space for 150 shops there should be something to interest everyone and with parking for 5,000 a space for your car as well once the initial interest has calmed down.
The really good thing is, this new shopping centre will create 1,500 direct jobs in the area and many other indirect jobs.
Friday, April 20, 2012
I have remarked on several occasions about the high quality of the Bigastro web site. For those of us who live outside the town, it is an invaluable source of information about what is going on and I refer to it daily before writing items on my blog.
However, there are a few items that are out of date for various reasons and I was wondering when they might be updated:
- The last recorded council meeting was the 28th November last year
- The local by-laws date from 2010
- The last budget is for 2008
- The latest population statistics date back to 2008
- Finally the list of councillors still neither has photographs nor details of the socialist councillors
I know that things are hectic down at the town hall and that German works hard to keep the information up to date so this is more of an enquiry than a complaint.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Our teacher, Antonio, told us on Tuesday that people in towns like Bigastro used to collect rainwater from the roofs of their houses to drink. Channels on the roofs brought the water down to the houses (a bit like the guttering and down spouts you find on Northern European houses).
I don’t know how long ago Antonio was speaking but it may not have been that far into the past when you consider there were no tarmac roads in Bigastro during the 60s.
Although Antonio said that rainwear was drinkable, I would seriously question that because when the rain comes from the Sahara desert it is full of red dust. Even when it is coming from a different direction, it is running over a dusty roof which may well have bird droppings and other rubbish on it. Still, if that was the only source of water, there was no choice for the people living here.
As those who live at Villas Andrea will know, there has been a long running (sic) problem at the water pumping station situated at the entrance to the estate. Last week, they dug the road up to try and resolve the problem and that seemed to work until yesterday that is when water was once again streaming down the road.
So, workmen are back again and have dug yet another hole in the road in an attempt to cure the leak. That means we either have just a trickle of water from the tap or none at all.
Maybe we should invest in some guttering and a rain barrel to store water – make a return to days gone by that Antonio spoke of!
This morning's bond auction will see Spain attempt to raise up to €2.5bn by selling two types of bond – one matures in 2014, and the other in 2022.
The 10-year bonds will be most closely watched as long-term debt is seen as a better measure of market confidence.
Analysts will look at four factors when evaluating the auction: how much debt was sold; how oversubscribed the auction was (bid-to-cover ratio); what interest rate (the yield) Spain has agreed to pay; and whether investors favoured the 2014 bond over the 2022 one.
On Tuesday, Spain held an auction of short-term bonds. Yields jumped, but the auction was still seen as a success because the Spanish authorities actually sold more than their maximum target of €3bn.
However, this was only Barcelona’s third defeat this season and they will not be wanting to loose on the return leg. I still predict Barcelona to win.
As for the other tie, I am expecting Bayern Munich to beat Real Madrid but then what do I know. It could well be Chelsea versus Real Madrid in the final.
Looking at Weather Bug’s prediction, the rain should stay off until Sunday night, AEMET say there is a 10% chance of rain on Sunday and Canal Metro (on the left)are predicting the rain will arrive on Monday.
Apart from the dog show, we have friends coming over on Sunday for a barbecue so I really hope the weather stays fine for that. As they say though, it is all in the lap of the Gods.
That must have been a busy night for the local constabulary. The last item on their website is dated 20th December 2011 when there was a nasty traffic accident in the town and before that on the 7th December they found 80 lottery tickets in one of the waste bins. The last crime, as such, occurred last September when they collaborated with the Guardia Civil to find a plantation of marihuana.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Those who enjoyed a taste of a Sevillana fair will want to go to the Torrevieja May Fair 2012 which will be held from Wednesday 9 to Sunday May 13.
Place: Port Facilities
On Wednesday 9th, Torrevieja’s May Fair will be inaugurated at around 9pm with a firework display and the symbolic switching on of lights, which opens the Fair proper. Entrance to the Fair Ground is free although tickets are required for the seated area. If you have not visited the Fair before, put it in your diary now, as this is one of the most colourful fiestas in Torrevieja and includes a display of horses and carriages on Saturday and Sunday, singing and dancing each evening (be warned it starts late!) food, food, food and a libation or two. Don’t miss it and make sure you take your camera to capture this most colourful of events, second only to the Ferias in Andalusia itself, in size and spectacle.
Wednesday, May 9
9 pm – Opening of the Fair accompanied by interpretation of anthems by the local music band Union Musical Torrevejense and the choir "Maestro Ricardo Lafuente". After this a big firework display!
Later on: performances by local dance academies such as the Local Dance School, directed by Nuria Girona. (free admission)
Thursday, May 10
9 pm – Performance by the local dance academy Paya´s and its flamenco group. (free admission)
Friday, May 11
9 pm – Performance by the Rosy Sancho dance academy.
11 pm – Concert by EL ARREBATO (free admission)
Saturday, May 12
12 am – Mass at the Inmaculada’s Archpriest’s Church sung by a rociero choir.
Parade up to the door of the church, welcome to authorities and congregation and then parade up to the fair facilities. Once there, entrance of Spanish horse riders lasting until 4 pm.
9 pm – Performance by the Lola Morales dance academy.
10.30 pm – Concert II concurso de Copla (free admission)
Sunday, May 13
9 pm – Performance of Maria del Angel dance academy
11.30 pm – Closing of the May Fair with the final concert by the rociero choir and the Masa Coral José Hodar choir.
Borrowing cost for Spain rose again to over 6% in Monday’s bond sale. Worst still though, some of the regions debts are in junk status making it almost impossible for them to borrow money to finance their deficit spending.
Valencia (the region we live in) and Castile-La Mancha are the biggest worries as they both face crippling interest payments. In Andalucía, the situation is unclear because it is feared that the caretaker government are concealing their debt.
Sources in Madrid say that by May, the government could take over running of the rogue regions in an attempt to get their deficit down to the 1.5% target for this year. In effect, that means higher regional taxes and cuts in the two main areas that regions control; health and education.
How were any of us to know this in those heady days when towns were rich, the regions were rolling in money and the country was just sunshine and fiestas.
Yesterday, I went down to take photographs for a couple who had bought their dream home in the Los Altos de la Pedrera development. They wanted to know what state the house was in since they were forced to leave as the banks took over from the beleaguered developer.
What I saw did not paint a pretty picture. The whole area is overgrown with weeds and the pool in the centre has centimetres of green water at the bottom. The houses, that had been completed, still looked OK from a distance. However, closer inspection revealed that they had all been broken into. Some had grills and windows removed to gain access, the couples own house had its front door removed. I didn’t attempt to go inside but I can imagine that anything that could be taken had been removed and the rest was just trashed.
This is in the sleepy town of Bigastro, imagine the state of houses, left by bankrupt developers, in more popular areas.
For the banks, who now own these properties, it must be a nightmare they don’t want to think about. Even if they could find buyers for these properties and resolve the debts on them, how could they hope to sell houses in such a state of disrepair?
Monday, April 16, 2012
Looks like we will be paying a little more for our flights from Spain. The government has decided to increase the overhead charges applied at all airports in Spain by up to 50%. The higher rate applies to Barajas (Madrid) and El Prat (Barcelona). Airports that deal with tourists such as El Altet (Alicante) will apply the lower rate of 14%.
It isn’t clear what these changes will make to ticket prices because that all depends on how much of the increase will be absorbed by the airlines. At a rough estimate, it could add about 10 Euros per flight from El Altet, more from Madrid or Barcelona. Prices will apply from June 1st.
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Making money by growing crops legally takes a lot of hard work, for example those farmers growing artichokes and other vegetables here in Spain have to put in a lot of time and effort for a meagre return. No, the quicker way to make money is to grow a crop that gives you a much higher return and that would be cannabis.
Growing the plants outdoors though means you run the risk of capture and you only get one crop per year. Far better to grow the stuff indoors using artificial light and hydroponics because that way you can get three crops per year.
With the right variety, you can grow plants up to two metres high that produce as much as two kilos of buds at each harvest. At 3,000 Euros a kilo for dried marijuana that is a great return – up to 18,000 Euros per plant per year. For 100 plants that amounts to 18,000,000 – gosh that’s more than footballers earn.
Many villas have under builds, the perfect space to set up your ‘farm’ but even a room in an apartment can provide a decent crop. With solar panels on the roof to supply the electricity and a remote location you can hopefully escape attention. Best not talk about this to your neighbours though, be careful not to invite them round for a party and whatever you do, do not advertise on the Internet or the local papers.
Once you have grown your crop, all you need is the means to transport the product to the lucrative markets of Holland and Britain -selling locally is maybe not a good idea.
Now if you will excuse me, I have some gardening to do!
PS For the benefit of those who don’t know me well enough, I have never touched the stuff and would never in a million years dream of growing any of the plants.
Jose Joaquin Moya , the former mayor of Bigastro was back in court this last week to provide more information about the infamous Volkswagen Toureg. The PP claim that he was given the car as a perk for awarding municipal contracts to two companies. The alleged charges are for bribery and embezzlement of public funds, fraud and extortion of local money.
Moya says that the town did not pay for work that was not undertaken, he hadn’t received any money personally, that the promissory notes were for maintenance and repair and that this was all a witch hunt by the PP who want to justify the time he spent in Fontcalent prison whilst investigations proceeded.
However, that still does not explain the 500,00 Euros that were paid to Torrevir for work in the town over a three year period and more to the point how Moya came to own the 60,000 Euro car, paid for with council money, which he subsequently sold. The jobs, which in some cases were signed off by municipal technicians as being completed, were not always supported by a tendering process which would have ensured free competition and possibly a better price.
Yesterday started out well enough so we thought it might just be OK for the Sevillana Fair. The morning was fine and the horses started to arrive in lovely sunshine around 12am.
Pam and I went off for a coffee and as we sat down it started to drizzle, then it stopped. When we returned to the park, the clouds had mostly cleared and it was sunny again. Unfortunately that did not last, the heavens opened and we had a downpour. Luckily, there were gazebos in the park for people to shelter under but that did not help the ladies who were serving the tapas and drinks.
Half an hour later, the sun was back out and that lasted until about 5pm when the wind decided to pick up and the temperature plummeted. By the time we got back to the park, the dancing was over. The girls taking part were hardly dressed for the weather and so cut their performance short.
It was a shame that all the efforts of the organisers were spoilt by the weather, still I imagine they made a decent profit in the time that the sun shone. I hope it doesn’t put them off doing something similar next year.
PS We did get our pelotas and they were delicious. However, they were eclipsed by the wonderful desserts. Many thanks to all those who helped to organise the event and to those who prepared such wonderful food for us.
You can find my photos here.
Saturday, April 14, 2012
Friday, April 13, 2012
The mayor, Charo Bañuls, says that council spending this year in Bigastro will be reduced to 3,439,000 Euros - the expected income for the town is 4,403,000 Euros. The 964,000 Euro difference is the amount that the town will use to start paying off the debts from 2010 – 2011.
In order to make these savings in expenditure, 30 of the council workers will be laid off saving a substantial part of the half a million Euros that the town pays out annually in wages. The council also plan to cut the 40,000 Euros that the former mayor spent on dining and protocol and the 55,000 he spent on advertising and propaganda.
The town also intends to increase its revenue by collecting property tax from those 180 homes that were not taxed by the socialist in return for votes. They will also increase the rate of property tax we all pay by 10% which is interesting because, in his election manifesto, Aurelio Murcia talked about reducing taxes. It was Aurelio Murcia who pointed out to us that citizens in Bigastro pay the highest council taxes in this area, it seems that we are about to pay more.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
In a surprise gesture, the mayor of Bigastro, Charo Bañuls, announced that two more of the councillors would now receive salaries: Aurelio Murcia, leader of the Liberal Union party will be paid 2,300 Euros per month over 14 months and the Councillor for Finance, Antonio Manuel Gonzalez, will be paid 1,100 Euros per month over the same period. The third person to earn a salary is the Councillor for Culture, Maria Jose Sarmiento, who will be paid 100 Euros for attendance at meetings of the council, at a rate of one or two meetings a week. In total, the salary for the seven councillors of the government team adds up to about 220,000 per year.
The PSOE spokesperson, Raul Valerio Medina says that this surprise move comes only days after the council have set up plans to make 30 council workers redundant and the farming out of services like the nursery school to private companies. He says that this is a scandal and branded the governing party as hypocrites. He says that the only member of the government team without a salary is the Councillor for Sport.
Medina went on to complain that he was only given a days notice of the plan which was hardly sufficient time for him to prepare. He says that the proposals are unrealistic and that the figures do not add up. For example, the amount for planned redundancies will only provide workers with 2,000 Euros each for all the years they have been employed. He says that the cutting of grants to societies means that even the Musical Union will receive no support this year from the council.
For those who haven’t attended one of these galas before, they involve different groups of local people; dancing, singing, making music and again this year, there will be a surprise ending.
As per usual, there will be a grand raffle with prizes donated by the list on the poster.
Entry to the gala is 5 € to benefit entirely Manos Unidas.
Looks like my right finger is going to be busy clicking away that weekend!
This Saturday there will be a real treat in store for you because the Asociacion de Familiares de Enfermos de Alzheimer y Otras Demencias Bigastro have organised their 1st Feria de Sevillanas to take place in the Parque Huerto del Cura.
For those who are not familiar with Ferias de Sevillanas, they are very popular throughout southern Spain, including the famous Seville Fair, La Feria de Sevilla. Locally, Formentera del Segura holds one each year and the May Fair at Torrevieja is another good example.
To accompany the music, there is an associated dance called the "Baile por sevillanas", consisting of four different parts. You find schools teaching "baile por sevillanas" in nearly every town in Spain including of course Bigastro.
Those of you who have attended the May Fair in Torrevieja will know that horses also form a major part of the week’s attractions.
Now to the one in Bigastro
At 12am there will be an exhibition of horses with the bonus that children who arrive in fancy dress can enjoy a free pony ride. There will also be tapas available to stop you from feeling hungry.
Then at 4pm there will be Sevillanas dancing classes for those of you bold enough to try this form of dance.
Finally at 7pm the Association have arranged for a spectacular display by the Estefania Selfa School of Dance to take place along with other flamenco dancing displays and a continuation of the Tapeo.
Worthy of your support
The Association, of which my neighbour Eladia Grau is a key member, does an enormous amount of work to help local families who have to care for Alzheimer suffers. Without their support, these families would struggle to cope with the problems that having a person with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia poses for them.
The Association deserves our full support to help them with their programme of work. Pam and I hope to see you all down in the park.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Growing cannabis in Spain for personal consumption is legal. Clubs have set up over the country to do just that and so far have escaped prosecution.
However, when the mayor of Rasquera, in the Catalonia region, decided that he could scale things up and use the profits to pay of the town’s debt, things got a little more tricky. He held a referendum before going ahead with the project but only got 56% support- less than the 75% he hoped for.
Now nobody is sure where this project is heading. The mayor said he would resign if he did not get three quarters of the 800 voters on his side but has so far declined from doing so.
This story prompted me to come up with some appropriate headlines,; “Town rescue plan up in smoke”, “The mayor of Rasquera has gone potty?”, “Town makes a hash of it”, “Weeding out the debt”, “The highs of local politics”, “A joint venture” etc etc
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
There will be a special council meeting tomorrow at 7pm which is described as urgent.
Looking at the agenda there are some controversial issues to be discussed firstly regarding council employees –that could take some time.
Then there is an item about regulating the rate for the certificate for family regrouping and other steps regarding immigration. Not quite sure what that means.
They will go on to consider reworking the controversial plan for Sector D-6, followed by final approval of the integration of Sector D-5 into the plan for the town. Following which they want to erase the previous plan regarding the “Irrigation San Joaquin”.
Finally they will looking at resolving the contract for Camping La Pedrera.
It is open to all dogs, pedigree and non pedigree. Winners will score points towards the Spanish championship.
Register your entry in the town hall or at the Pet Boutique and get grooming!
PS Even worse than taking pictures of children is shooting photos of dogs but I’ll give it a go.
Monday, April 09, 2012
It is true that United were lucky to be gifted one of their goals yesterday when a bad decision by the referee gave Rooney the chance to score a penalty against rivals QPR. With only ten men left, QPR finished 2 goals down. That was an important game for United especially since their rivals City would be kicking off later in the day in an attempt to keep up their league championship hopes.
As it happened City lost to Arsenal by one goal but the big news of the day was Mario Balotelli, the 22 year old Italian, who once again disgraced himself on the pitch with his petulant behaviour. He might score important goals but if he can’t stay on the pitch for the full 90 minutes without committing some atrocious foul then he isn’t worth risking. Yesterday he committed three, one of which the referee missed.
Sheikh Mansour has spent a billion pounds on Manchester CIty should surely expect to see more for his money. The fact that City lead the table for 28 weeks will count for nothing if they come second as it now looks almost certain they will. It is possible that Balotelli will never play for City again, that was £23m wasted by manager Mancini whose job may also be in jeopardy.
This all points to one thing, money does not necessarily buy you success in football and that must surely be a good thing. The Glazers may leave Ferguson with little cash to play with but he has shown time and again that he can spend what he has well and bring home the results.
Sunday marked the culmination of Holy Week. After the deep sorrow of the preceding days, yesterday was about jubilation as we celebrated Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
For example, in Orihuela, just after midnight, people gathered in the Plaza de las Salesas and from there accompanied the Brotherhood of the Resurrection in celebrating the encounter between Christ and his mother. The sculptures of the Risen Saviour carved in the seventieth century and Our Lady of Sorrows carved by Francisco Salzillo in the eighteenth century represented the two figures in the encounter.
Later in the morning there was the traditional drum parade and the transfer of El Salvador Risen from the Church of Saints Justa and Rufina to the Cathedral, organized by the Brotherhood of Resurrection. Shortly afterwards the same brotherhood moved the image of Our Lady of Sorrows from the parish church of Saints Justa and Rufina to the Monastery of St. John of Penance.
Similar events took place in many towns of the area, Torrevieja, Almoradi and of course Bigastro.
One of the most unique ceremonies takes place in the villages of Molins and La Campaneta which are separated by a bridge that crosses the Segura. Molins has the image of the Blessed Sacrament and La Campaneta the Virgen de Pilar. On Easter Sunday they meet at the bridge. This year, the procession then moved on to La Campaneta for mass.
So now, all the pasos are safely restored to their keeping places and the crowds have returned to their homes. It is time to reflect on a week where rain threatened to cancel events but never actually managed it.
Sunday, April 08, 2012
The prime minister, Mariano Rajoy now admits that things in Spain got out of hand during the boom years when regional governments and town halls competed with each other to show off how rich they were. They built airports, sports pavilions, conference halls and exhibition centres as symbols of their new found wealth. The classic examples are the two airports at Castellón and Ciudad Real which have never opened. They are building another one at Corvera which could well face the same fate and let’s not forget the high speed railway which the country can ill afford.
The new Auditorium at Torrevieja and the Semana Santa museum are prime examples of local governments spending beyond their means. The splendid auditorium where we enjoyed the concert last week will be open for just three months this year. It is not just that the towns can no longer afford the building of these monuments to wealth, they can’t afford to run them. In Bigastro, it is the multi storey car park that has opened for one week since it was built, the sports pavilion and the auditorium that mark the town’s riches during that period. Thankfully, the aparthotel at La Pedrera was stopped otherwise that would have been another white elephant to add to the list.
It wasn’t just with public buildings that Spaniards went crazy, thousands of homes were built in the hope that people would buy them. Now, in spite of banks selling off their housing stock at knockdown prices, there are still 700,000 new houses on the market with no takers in sight. Outside of Madrid there is a whole town of apartment blocks that stand empty. If you are part of the 24% workforce unemployed the last thing you can consider is buying a new home even a bargain basement prices.
Understandably in these circumstances, house prices in Spain have plummeted by 25% from the highs set during the boom years and are predicted to fall even further over the next two years. I don’t even like to think about how much our house would fetch if we had to sell it – I dare say a lot less than we paid for it. Fortunately we don’t have a mortgage otherwise we would now be in negative equity owing more than our house was worth.
In a desperate measure, the government has announced a tax amnesty on those Spaniards who cheated the system by allowing them to pay a one off 10% tax on their hidden assets. During the boom years it was common for builders to take final payments for houses in cash, I know of many at Villas Andrea that paid this way – Pam and I didn’t. Does Sr Rajoy really think that those builders are now going to cough up some of that cash just to help the country out? No, that is carefully stashed away in strong rooms under their houses. It is a nest egg that will ensure their survival until things improve – whenever that might be.
Increasingly, analysts are predicting that Spain will be forced to join Ireland, Greece and Portugal and will require a bailout from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Quite what happens then is anybody’s guess. For sure it will not be good.
Still it is Easter and the sun is shining. I’ve just heard the fireworks that signal the encounter between Mary and her son Jesus down in the town so things are not quite desperate yet.
As followers of this blog will know, I make a point of getting up on Easter Sunday to go down to the town and take photos of the Encuentro in Bigastro. Easter Sunday is when Christ was resurrected and his mother Mary, who has been mourning the loss of her son, meets up with him.
In Bigastro this is celebrated with a special procession. The statue of Jesus is carried from the church at 7am and then processes along Calle Mayor. The statue of Mary, wearing a black cloak for mourning, leaves the church afterwards and she is carried along Calle Purisima. They then meet on Calle de Picasso where a bed of flower petals and leaves has been laid out. At the moment of encounter, white doves are released, a confetti bomb is set off followed by a mascleta of fireworks. The two figures are then carried back to the church along Calle Purisima.
I just can’t believe that I did not wake up in time this morning to be there and take photos. Please accept my humble apologies.
Saturday, April 07, 2012
When you find an item on sale at a cheap price, there is often a catch involved somewhere.
As my friend Pete knows, I am a great fan of Canon L series lenses. They are not cheap but are of top quality both mechanically and optically. I have four of them in my collection ranging in focal lengths from 17mm to 200mm (I also have a 1.4x extender which takes the 200mm to 280mm).
The first lens came with the camera, the others have been bought since from a company called Simply Electronics who are renowned for offering the best prices on this type of equipment. You’ll find adverts for them on the Telegraph and Guardian websites.
There is a drawback though and that is the lenses are all so called “grey” imports because Simply Electronics are based in Hong Kong. Still they are genuine Canon lenses, work perfectly well and come with a worldwide warranty.
Actually, there is another drawback to buying from Simple Electronics and that is the waiting time for goods to arrive. They claim dispatch within 1 to 3 working days but never achieve it. They claim to have stock but actually don’t, not in their dispatch centre in England that is. The first lens I bought from them took six days to dispatch, the last lens took 13 days. Still, for the amount I was saving it was worth waiting – two weeks isn’t like a lifetime is it?
I recently decided to upgrade my 70-200mm lens to the Mk II f2.8 version and so, with trepidation, I ordered from Simply Electronics again. I knew that I was tempting fate but still the saving was compelling. That was a mistake because my order did not change from new for days and so I wrote to them.
From past experience and the experience of others, the answers you get to emails come from a bank of replies which are designed to fob you off. The story usually goes along the lines that they are experiencing a huge demand for their products which has entailed a delay. Yes they have the lens but their dispatch centre is working flat out and it will take several days for them to clear the backlog. Several emails later, it was obvious that I was not going to receive my lens anytime soon so I decided to cancel and buy elsewhere.
I’ve paid a bit more to get the same thing from Amazon but at least I know that my lens is on its way – it was last tracked leaving the airport at Koeln on its way to Spain.
As for the order from Simply Electronics, as I say that was cancelled and I now await a refund of the money paid. I know from what I have read on the web, that will take even longer than dispatch. Many have had to resort to the law, to PayPal or to their Visa card supplier to get their money back. As for me, I’ll give them five working days and then take decisive action.
So the moral of all this, if you want a pain free purchasing experience avoid Simply Electronics like the plague. Just Google the name to see what I mean.I did but then told myself that I would be one of the lucky ones. That worked for me four times but not on the fifth.
Pam and I chose to go to Orihuela to watch the Good Friday procession there. We decided that the place we went to last year by the old bridge would give us the best views so that is where went. This time we decided to give our legs a rest and find seats. Many of the seats were reserved but we did manage to find two on the second row that were not taken and paid for them.
Although, sitting was a lot more comfortable, there was a lot of coming and going in front of us which did spoil our enjoyment of the procession a little especially towards the end. I did manage to get some photos for you which are in the album in the left hand sidebar.
Here are just a few to whet your appetite.
Friday, April 06, 2012
Every year I tell myself that I should go and see the Thursday night parade in Orihuela. Starting at 11pm at night, the street lights go out and the city is plunged into darkness. The first sign that the parade is to begin is the sound of a horn which is followed by the rhythm of the drums.
Then the Brotherhood of Silence parade in their brown habits, wearing sandals on their feet, carrying candle light lanterns and penitential crosses. Along the route there are singers who wail songs of passion. Their paso is a cross bearing Cristo del Consuelo (1795, Jose Puchol). This parade has taken place each year since 1940. By all accounts it is an eerie but at the same time moving occasion that marks the death of Christ. It is one I have yet to see.
Likewise at dawn this morning the the Brotherhood of the Holy Christ of the Good Death, who signify that Christ did not die in vain, process through the streets and I have yet to see that as well.
Wednesday, April 04, 2012
Whether it rains or not is no longer of any importance to fans of Barcelona FC who have just seen their team progress to the semi-finals of the Champions League for the fifth consecutive time. A goal by Andrés Iniesta and two penalties by Leo Messi was all it took for the Catalans to wipe out Inter Milan. One more goal for Messi and he will have broken the 50 year old record for goals scored in Champions League games.
Yesterday it looked like the parade in Orihuela was going to be washed out. However, the thunderstorm we had at midday ended and the skies cleared in good time for the Brotherhoods of Atonement and Ecce Homo to set out.
It was a good chance to see the new canopy that the Brotherhood of Forgiveness have commissioned for Mary of Atonement. It was also a night when you could see the paso of Calvary carried on the shoulders of 50 costaleros. Until now it has been driven on wheels.
In case the weather did turn nasty, there were tents at several places en route where the pasos could be sheltered.
Looking at the rest of the week; tonight looks reasonably promising for the Brotherhoods of Flagellation and Lavatorio. On Thursday it might just stay clear for the silent parade at 11pm and for Friday we have our fingers crossed.
Tuesday, April 03, 2012
It might be sunny outside at the moment but the forecast for today is rain. In fact rain is expected each day this week at some point.
Normally that would not be a problem but of course it is Easter and there will be a lot of visitors in town to watch the parades. The main one takes place on Friday when all of the cofradias take part. The forecast for Friday is grim with a 65% chance of rain in Orihuela and a strong wind to drive it.
Since we moved to Spain, we have only been able to watch the Friday parade on four occasions, twice in Torrevieja and twice in Orihuela. It doesn’t seem to matter whether Easter is early or late, the weather is invariably bad. It must be disheartening for the people who organise the parades to have them called off. It is also a bitter blow for the tourists who have come especially to watch them. There is no way that they will risk bringing the pasos out in the rain though, those things are priceless.
According to the Costa Blanca News, Alicante province has the highest fuel prices in the whole of Spain - a whopping 13% higher than in Teruel and even 4.6% higher than in neighbouring Murcia.
Apparently one of the factors that pushes prices up is the 'Céntimo sanitario' which adds 4.8 cents to each litre of fuel.
When you consider that diesel in Britain costs on average £1.48, we are still paying less here because that is about 1.78 in Euros against an average of 1.45 Euros for Alicante.
Monday, April 02, 2012
One of the first tasks for the new president of the Mancomunidad, which links 11 towns in the Vega Baja, was to present letters of dismissal to ten of the employees.
The terms of redundancy are such that they should be paid for twenty days per year that they have been employed. Since some have 15 years of employment, that amounts to a sizeable sum.
So, not a Good Friday for those people made worse by the fact they haven’t been paid for almost six months.
This is now the harsh reality of working for local government in this area. You work for months without pay in the hope that things will be eventually be sorted and are then told that you are to be made redundant.
People gathered in the park, dressed in their finest clothes to be joined by those who had attended mass in the church. They then paraded along the main street of the town back to the church where tapas had been arranged.
A great occasion to show off your new clothes, to meet with friends and family for a very social event. See my photos here.
My favourite photo from the day is of John and Carol who live on our estate looking suitably splendid and happy to be out in the sunshine.
We knew it would be a long night but in fact the hours passed by quickly. I am talking about Saturday when we had the huge privilege of attending the Concierto Homenaje al Maestro Grau in the new Auditorio de Torrevieja.
First off, the Auditorium itself – what a magnificent building it is with its concert hall large enough to hold 1,500 people built in a semi circle. Pam and I were down in the main body of the hall close to the front but to be honest, wherever you sat the view of the stage would have been excellent and the acoustics are of course just perfect.
The concert started with the band from Bigastro who played their two pieces with confidence. Thomas was suitable exuberant, inspiring the band to play at their best. The stage cleared and on came the band from San Miguel who treated us to two further pieces, the second of which was the Suite Hebraica arranged by Maestro Grau. If we were to pick a favourite from the night, that would be it. The largest of the bands from Almoradi followed. I think I counted six cellos and a double bass in their ensemble. They made way for the band from Torrevieja who were surprisingly small in number but did not lack musicality.
The Presidents from the four bands were called up to make a presentation to Francisco Grau. Then the Mayors from the four towns took to the stage and made a further presentation.
In a rousing finale, Maestro Grau directed a band composed of members from all four bands. His years directing the Band of the Royal Guard meant that he was not phased by conducting such a large group of musicians, he certainly did not need to read from the score to pull them together.
All too soon, the concert was over but it will remain in our memories for many years to come. We must thank the Ayuntamiento in Torrevieja for making the concert possible and all of the musicians for providing us with such a momentous occasion.
For those of you unfortunate enough not to be there, here are some photos of the event. For those who were there, I hope they serve as a reminder of a splendid evening of music.