Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The first fiesta for the year

20130430_cruz Next weekend, the Barrio de la Cruz,  Bigastro will be celebrating its festival in honour of the Holy Cross.

Programme for Sunday 5th May:

11am - the town band will parade through the streets of the area

12am - solemn mass

1pm - tapeo courtesy of the Commission for Fiestas San Joaquin 2013.

2pm -  paella prepared by the master chefs from the area followed by a disco

5pm - games for the children

When we first came to Bigastro, the festival lasted two days and many houses in the area decorated their walls with floral crosses. There was even a competition for the best cross. The harsh economic climate has taken its toll and so the festival is a much lower key event these days. However, it is still important to the people who live in the area who will be there for mass on Sunday morning.

No snow for Bigastro

One of our friends from England phoned yesterday to ask about the snow that we’d had. She’d seen a forecast that showed a snowfall in the Alicante province and naturally assumed that meant the whole area would be covered in a blanket of the white stuff.

The forecast she’d seen was right in that inland parts of the province, on high ground, would have seen snow at the weekend but not in Bigastro. In the time we have lived here, we have seen ice form in shallow pools when the night time temperatures have been low but the only snow was a short flurry that lasted no more than ten minutes and was gone just as quick.

On Saturday though, some parts of the Vega Baja, notably at Catral and Almoradí saw hail and of course we had rain for four days which was heavy at times.

The hail and heavy rain will have damaged the lemon and potato crops. The earliest crops of potato that will be ready for picking soon could well have suffered with all that rain. Lemons do not like the cold and therefore could have been damaged by the hail.

Normally, agriculturalist welcome rain in this area because it cleans the ground and benefits crops like the artichokes but too much is just as bad as too little.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Go grannies go!


The internet craze for impromptu dancing or singing in public places took a surprise turn when between 50 and 60 ladies from Cindy’s Zumba Girls turned up at Iceland near La Marina and started dancing in the aisles. The staff at the shop had no idea this was going to happen so it must have come as a real shock to them as I imagine it did to shoppers who were there.

You never know when a “flash mob” will take place which is the secret of its success in cheering everyone up. All kudos to the ladies who took part, that was a brave thing to do - I almost wish I’d been there to see you.

PS I apologise to the younger ladies who took part for the title of this item:-)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Continuing with the bird theme

Experts from the Miguel Hernandez University and the Association of Friends of the Sierra Escalona have been collecting data about the number of owls in the area. They claim to have found around 350 pairs in the Alicante province of which 160 pairs habit the Vega Baja from Orihuela, San Miguel de Salinas to Pilar de la Horadada taking in the Dehesa de Campoamor.

For many years, the owl population in this area was under threat but now seems to have recovered. The abundance of natural prey for the birds to feed on is a contributing factor to their growth and survival.

Many of the nests that were checked over the breeding season had three or four chicks in them showing that the population will survive. Young birds leave the nest when they are about four months old and set up in new territory about 12 kms from their birthplace.    

Look out for these

Anything that might control the invasion of the red palm weevil is worth a try.

750px-European_roller One school in Orihuela has been making nesting boxes which will be installed facing south at the top of ten palm trees. The idea is that the boxes will attract European roller birds to nest in them.

These birds are known to migrate from sub-Saharan Africa to the Iberian Peninsula to breed. Their diet consists of large insects,small reptiles, rodents and frogs so the picudo rojo is a natural prey for these birds. Judging by the number of trees that have been destroyed, there should be no shortage of food for the rollers.

At the moment, there is one known pair that nest in the area; the hope is that the boxes will encourage more.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Driven to desperation

Faced with the the harsh problems that the economic downturn has brought to many in Spain, some have resorted to desperate measures. We all recall that the government was forced to suspend the eviction of tenants in arrears after several committed suicide.

One solution for some is to make a fraudulent claim against their insurance policies. Last year, 150,000 investigations were made into such claims, a rise of 11.9% over the previous year.

None were as bizarre as the man who made claims to 11 different firms saying that he had lost his hand in a car accident. The investigation concluded that the angle of his turn and the speed of the car would not have produced that result and that the cut was too clean for it to have occurred in a traffic accident.

In a similar case last year, a man claimed 600,000 euros for an arm cut off above the elbow which he said was caused by an accident with an electric saw.

In both cases, the men will have to spend the rest of their lives with a severe incapacity for no good reason. 

Local rain

It must be very hard to predict the weather when it is often just one small locality that is affected.

Yesterday, Pam and I went to do our food shop at the Mercadona on the Crevillente road near San Louis.

On the way there, it was dry and the roads were clear of surface water. Whilst we were in the shop, it started to rain quite heavily and was still raining when we left.

We all know that heavy rain in this area means flooded roads and that is just what we encountered on the CV-945 between Los Montesinos and the CV-95. Muddy water was flooding the road at least a few centimetres deep where it was coming off the fields. Thankfully, most drivers were negotiating the flooded sections with great care and so it was mainly the wheel arches that were getting a wash with yellow water.

Strangely, the last section of the road between the roundabout with the AP-7 and the CV-95 was clear and when we got onto the CV-95, the road was completely dry. It didn’t look as though there had been any rain at all in Bigastro in fact it was quite bright. I can only conclude that there was one “bad ass” cloudburst that was just over the Los Montesinos area.

Friday, April 26, 2013

A rude awakening

It rained mostly all day yesterday, heavily at times. It was also raining into the night and by 6am this morning was so bad that it woke me up. Fortunately it did ease off after half and hour or so which allowed me to doze back to sleep. Still, I will need my siesta a little later on. 

The rain should ease off this morning and it is forecast to get brighter as the day goes on. I just hope it stays clear for that April fair at Bigastrin.

Silly man

An ex-councillor in Redovan is in court accused of corruption and falsifying an official document. The prosecution are asking for two years in prison and eight years of disqualification from holding office.

Joaquín Pozuelo, who was councillor for planning in the town, prepared a document to allow one of his neighbours to contract electricity from Iberdrola. Unfortunately the house had not been granted a certificate of occupancy nor did it have a license of first occupation and so at the time was illegal. This type of document can only be authorised by the mayor of a town following a report by the local technician.

Since this happened in August 2009, both parties must have thought that they were, by now, in the clear. Spanish bureaucracy might be slow and ponderous but it does get there in the end.  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Help for Manu

914096_451331721613981_670506422_o Friday, 26th April at 7pm, Bigastrin Infant School in Bigastro will be hosting their first FERIA DE ABRIL SOLIDARIA on behalf of their former student, Manu.

Performances will by the Bigastrin children and Estefania Selfa Dance sport. There will also be horseback riding for the children and DJ Jimmy will provide the music.


A safe bet

Untitled-1Looking at the forecast for today, I think you’d be right in assuming it will rain.

Checking this out further, it seems that the rain could be light as opposed to a heavy downpour with the worst period between about 4pm and 5pm. Strong winds were also predicted for the area but that seems to have been moderated now.

Further up the coast, the risk is higher – currently rated at orange alert for rain and yellow for wind.

As night falls, the wind will ease of as will the rain. Tomorrow will be brighter but there will still be some heavy clouds about. What will be most noticeable though is the drop in daytime temperatures.  Clearly I was wrong in assuming that spring had finally arrived!

Calling all dancers

20130424_baile The Department of Social Welfare in Bigastro, the  Progressive Women's Association and Recycled Alicante have organized a FREE BALLROOM WORKSHOP beginning on Tuesday, 7th May in the auditorium of the Integrated Social Centre.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

North Korean officers in full dress uniform

Untitled-1This gives an all new meaning to the term  bling.

Medals and ribbons usually indicate acts of outstanding bravery, campaigns fought, other theatres of war involved in etc. However, since North Korea hasn’t been in any wars since 1950, these medals must be for something else – good attendance perhaps!

We can only assume that they are a bit like the awards in Hollywood i.e.  presented by themselves because they desperately need some recognition.

Fingers crossed

The seawater desalination plant at Torrevieja has taken six years to complete at a cost of 215 million euros. Now it is in its test phase where they need to check how well the reverse osmosis membranes are working. Since they were installed in 2010, they have not been used so no one is sure that they will function correctly.

If all goes well then the plant will be capable of producing 80 cubic hectometres of water per year of which 40 will be available for irrigation in the area. As of the moment though, it is unclear how much the price will be for the water produced. Desalination plants consume a lot of electricity and so a new substation is being built to accommodate the demand. Although this is not complete, the testing can still go ahead.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Clampdown on home rentals

Hotel owners in Spain complain that the practice of renting out property to friends, colleagues and customers over the internet is creating unfair competition for them. The government have responded by voting to update the Ley de Arrendamientos Urbanos (LAU) and hope to get this passed by the Senate. The aim is to pass regulation of rentals to the regional authorities.

Companies that sold holiday homes on the basis that the owners could recover the cost by renting the property out are concerned that the change will drive people into illegal renting. They point out that home rentals provides 700 million euros per year in taxes to the Spanish hacienda. That is a lot of money for the country to lose.  

Numbers are down

article-0-196FD346000005DC-755_634x339  The population of Spain decreased last year by 205,788 and now stands at 41,539,400 of which 5,520,133 are foreigners. This is the first time that the population has declined since 1998.

During the boom years, between 2000 and 2008, thousands came from Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia to work in construction. The number of migrants rose from 923,879 to 5,747,734. Now, that construction has come to a halt and over 26% of the workforce are unemployed, they are heading home. The only groups that have actually increased are the Chinese (3,647), Pakistanis (730) and Italians (246).

The Valencian region lost 24,901  and now has a population of 5.1 million. It still has the second highest immigrant population though at 16.8%.

By country, the numbers are: Romanians (868,635, 15.7% of foreigners), Moroccans (787,013, 14.3 percent of foreigners), British (383,093, 6.9% foreigners) and Ecuadorians (262,223, 4.8% foreigners).

Monday, April 22, 2013

Thank you Spurs

We all wanted you to beat Manchester City yesterday and you did in the most convincing manner.

That means that United stay 13 points clear of their cross city rivals with five games left to play. All Manchester United need to do is clinch a win against Aston Villa tonight and they will pick up their 20th League trophy. The game is at home so there will be plenty of support and rejoicing in the streets if they win.

For Spurs, their victory leaves them in fifth place, one point adrift of Chelsea, who currently occupy the final Champions League qualification place, and two points behind third-placed Arsenal. But Spurs have a game in hand on the Gunners, meaning a place in Europe's premier club competition remains in their hands as they enter the final month of the season.

I hope they succeed because, after yesterday’s win over City, they deserve to.

Pirates on the river

A group of environmentalists organised a pirate descent of the River Segura yesterday. Some of them navigated the river using kayaks and surfboards whilst the rest cycled the pathway alongside the river. To make their point, the pirates wore white coats and face masks.

Luckily for them, there was sufficient flow in the river otherwise their journey would have come to a dead halt in the reed beds. They left Almoradí at 9am and arrived at Guradamar in time for lunch.

Their demand is for a cleaner river just as it was back in the 60s when people used to bath in it. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Is spring over?

We were getting used to the warm sensation of the sun and looking forward to the glorious days of summer but that might have been premature. The last few days have been mild but overcast. The highs of 28 have gone leaving us with temperatures in the low 20s.

As next week passes, the temperatures are set to rise again to the mid 20s but we will still see quite a bit of cloud about with even the chance of a spot of rain. I guess we’ll have to wait until mid May to enjoy settled weather by which I mean blue skies and sunshine every day.

Deadly cooking utensils

The two bombers who caused carnage at the end of the Boston marathon filled the front pages of newspapers throughout the world. They are not the only ones using explosive packed cooking devices.

This report from the Guardian details a similar problem in Spain.

An anarchist group in Spain has been sending bombs to prominent Roman Catholics, hiding the explosives inside packages containing vibrators.

At least two such mini-bombs have been sent by a group that calls itself the Anticlerical Pro Sex Toys Group, according to Spain's state-owned EFE news agency. One device exploded at a postal sorting office, slightly injuring the woman who was handling the package.

"Please accept our apologies," the group said in an email apparently sent to an anarchist website at the beginning of last month. "Next time we won't fail."

The group targeted the Roman Catholic archbishop of Pamplona, Francisco Pérez, and the headteacher of a private school belonging to the ultra-conservative Legionnaires of Christ movement in Madrid.

The archbishop told EFE that he vaguely recalled police taking away a suspicious package containing powder. "We didn't give it much importance, but later it was said to be a bomb," he said.

Police reportedly believe the same group is behind a bomb packed inside a pressure cooker that was left near the public prosecutor's office in Madrid, but failed to explode.

Another rudimentary bomb found in Madrid's Almudena Cathedral, combining shrapnel, explosive powder and a camping gas canister, is also thought to have come from the same source.

The anarchists, who use other names such as the Artisans Club for New Uses for Coffee, claimed to have made a bomb out of an espresso coffee machine packed with gunpowder and shrapnel that was planted at a bank branch.

These devices are engineered to cause maximum harm. The explosives on their own would inflict serous harm.  The inclusion of ball bearings, shrapnel etc takes the damage to another level. There are a lot of sick people out there who have access to these sort of materials.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Confusion cleared up

20130419_manosu The concert on Sunday will be the 6th Gala to benefit the charity United Hands. As you can see from the poster, it starts at 6:30pm and the cost of a ticket is 5 euros. You can buy tickets at the church after mass or I imagine at the door on the night.

Parking in Torre.

Parking for free in Torrevieja is a nightmare. With a population of over one hundred thousand which swells during summer and at Easter time,  you can imagine that parking is at a premium. When Pam and I go there we don’t even try to find a place on the street, we head straight for the car park by the fairground and pay.

For disabled drivers, the problem is worse. There are only 125 designated parking spaces for over 600 people with disabled parking permits. To make matters even worse, non-disabled drivers often park in the designated spaces – I have seen them do it both in the town and at Carrefour.

This is a problem that the council now aims to address.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Thought for Friday

Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.

So glad to be out of it

Tinkering with education by successive governments is the bane of teacher’s lives. Politician’s seem to believe that, even if the system isn’t broke, they still need to fix it. The ill fated National Curriculum In Britain was a prime example. Introduced at massive cost in terms of money and time, it was soon watered down and is now practically none existent. It did nothing to raise standards of education in fact in many ways it lowered them.

Now, Michael Gove wants to make radical changes to the English system by introducing longer school days and shorter holidays. His inspiration seems to have come from the Far East where he says children benefit from more contact in the classroom. Of course he is ignoring the fact that, in many countries and most independent schools in Britain,  children have even longer school holidays, shorter working days and still manage to be successful. His notion that the school holidays in Britain are geared to an outdated agrarian society where children went potato picking is just plain nonsense.

Current contracts for teachers stipulate 1,265 hours per year for 195 days of which 5 are set aside for training. Most, if not all teachers far exceed those hours already when you take account of marking, preparation, report writing etc. For example, Pamela’s children at Pensby Park might have gone home at 3:30pm but she rarely set foot out of her classroom before 5:30 or even 6pm and still had more to do later in the evening. Go to the school gates an hour or so after the end of the teaching day at most secondary schools and you will see teachers struggling under the weight of a pile of books to their cars. Increase the school day and the piles of books they have to carry  will grow even larger.

If we had our time again, Pam and I would have looked for jobs where we could walk out at the end of the working day with nothing to do until the next one. Jobs where a holiday meant just that – no marking and preparation for the next term – just a lazy time on the beach with the children and weekends were free time.

Totally confused

Whilst Pam and I were at the hairdresser’s yesterday, Juan told us that there would be a choral concert taking place on Sunday for the benefit of the Alzheimer's Association in Bigastro. Since Juan’s wife is a member of the choir we assumed that this was correct. He had no idea what time the concert was going to start – possibly 6:30pm or maybe 7pm.

Our Spanish teacher’s wife is also in the choir so we asked him. Antonio told us that the concert to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association will be taking place in June and not this weekend. Yes, there will be a concert on Sunday but this will be to benefit Manos Unidos and he mentioned Eurovision. Like Juan, Antonio had no idea what time the concert was scheduled for so he asked the concierge at the desk and she had no idea either.

The upshot is that it looks like there will be a concert on Sunday at some unspecified time to benefit one organisation or another.  I should be grateful if someone could shed some light on this!!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A regal occasion

Those of us old enough to remember Winston Churchill's funeral will have likely drawn parallels with the event that took place yesterday. It is unlikely that we will ever see such a funeral for a prime minister again during this century so it was well worth watching.

Thankfully, the threats of a disturbance came to nothing; a handful turned their backs as the coffin passed by and there were some who carried placards. The vast majority though were as respectful as they should be at a funeral. There were cheers and clapping as the gun carriage and then the hearse passed by. If I recall correctly, the crowds at Churchill’s funeral, which were larger in number, stood in silence. Otherwise, the two funerals bore a lot of similarity in that they marked the country’s respect for politicians deemed to have made a significant contribution.

What was impressive for me were three things; the ability of the British to carry off such an event with great dignity and without a hitch, the stirring music that accompanied the procession and the music which was chosen for the ceremony itself. Although there were some European pieces in there, the majority of the music was English including the arrangement of Elgar's stirring Nimrod.

We don’t have access to BBC TV so I cannot comment on the presentation. For us it was the Euronews coverage that came from the BBC feed. I imagine that it was impeccable.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Thought for the day

Women claim that men only have two emotions; horny and hungry. So, if you don’t have an erection then you obviously need a sandwich.

PS My apologies to those readers who might be offended - the truth can sometimes be ugly.

Inauguration suspended

The Association for Relatives of Alzheimer Patients were meant to be inaugurating the new Family Respite Unit and had called in the Regional Minister for Social Welfare, Asunción Sánchez to be there. That was until they remembered that the resource was funded by  money from Plan E provided by the socialist government of José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

Monday, April 15, 2013

More vandalism

Look in the direction of the Seminary at Orihuela and you will see that someone has painted the republican flag along with a star on the wall at the front. This act of vandalism is meant to celebrate the anniversary of the proclamation of the Second Republic in Spain.

The city council will now have to pay to have this removed.  

Sunday, April 14, 2013


I’m told that the duck pond at La Pedrera has been restored to its former glory, the water is clean, the surrounds have been repaired and there is a new lock on the gate. All is well for “los patos”.

The importance of art in Holland

When Pamela and I spent a long weekend in Amsterdam, one of the most memorable places we visited was the Rijksmuseum where we stood in awe at the impressive collection of Dutch masterpieces. We were fortunate because a few years later the museum was closed for a renovation. That process has taken 375 million euros and 10 years to complete.

Before the re-opening, Holland’s most famous painting, Rembrandt’s Night Watch, was processed through the streets of Amsterdam in a vast, reinforced steel box: a sealed carnival float for a carnival occasion. Thousands came out to watch, there were even naked cyclists braving the cold. The same workers who had removed the picture ten years before were rehired for the occasion.

It is hard to imagine the re-opening of a gallery in Britain capturing so much attention even though the country has an equally if not more impressive history of art

So what has changed?

Previously the rooms at the Rijksmuseum were organised in terms of the materials used; glass, paintings etc. That is how it was when Pamela and I visited. Now you walk through periods of art. The exception is for the works of Rembrant which still hold pride of place in the museum. Apart from the Night Watch, there is the 17th century Jewish Bride to marvel at.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A great week ahead

Untitled-1It can’t have escaped anyone’s attention that the weather here in Bigastro has improved greatly in the last week.

Easter was cold and mostly grey but that has all suddenly changed just as it did last year. The forecast for the coming week looks to be excellent; plenty of sunshine, very little cloud, no rain and only light winds.

Do you think it would be premature to say that spring is here at last?

Does this spell the end of the duck pond?

A municipally owned pond at La Pedrera is being used as a makeshift landfill site by Bigastro Council. The facility, which connects to the reservoir Los Patos (the ducks), was built by the former mayor José Joaquín Moya using European funds.  The matter has been reported to the local police by the PSOE spokesman, Raúl Valerio Medina.

The deputy mayor, Aurelio Murcia, says that authorisation was granted to change the use of this area for the future. He says that this is not a protected area even though it is adjacent to La Pedrera and assures us that the work is being carried out quietly, without offence and without disturbing the pine forest.

The duck pond at La Pedrera used to be a popular place for people to visit. Several varieties of ducks and other waders lived and bred in the pond and surrounding area. Recent visits confirm that the water level had been allowed to drop considerably and consequently has turned green. The pond surrounds are also in a poor state or repair.

Where did the money go to?

Bigastro Town Council have launched an investigation to try and establish how 1.2 million euros, paid by the owners of houses in Sector D6, were actually spent. The money was paid in to the consistorio but was not then used to pay the companies who were carrying out works.

Charo Bañuls (PP) says that the previous socialist council did not keep clear accounts of how much each owner paid and how much went to the Consistory in concept for urbanisation.

The Mayor and Councillor for Town Planning, Aurelio Murcia, have requested information from those that have houses or land in the area so that they can reconcile the accounts. The suspicion is that 1.2 million euros were siphoned off by the socialists to pay for other things.

Friday, April 12, 2013

100 years young

It is not unusual to find people of a great age in this part of Spain. A healthy diet, good weather and a more gentle lifestyle certainly contribute to longevity.

Yesterday, a lady in Los Montesinos celebrated her 100th birthday in the village where she was born. Along with her friends and neighbours, many of her 14 children, 37 grandchildren and 51 great grandchildren came to visit her and offer congratulations. Even the town band turned up outside to play for her.

Blessed with good health, the lady has only made a couple of visits to an hospital and has very rarely relied on drugs from the chemist to cure ills. Instead, she has used plants from the field to concoct home made remedies.

The lady was married on August 17th 1933 and soon after her husband was sent to war. She says that the day he returned unharmed was one of the best days of her life. I imagine that yesterday came pretty close. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

M & S in Spain

When we first moved here, we bought clothes on our trips back to England. Then Marks & Spencer offered delivery to Spain from their British website. Now the company has a Spanish website where the descriptions are in both Spanish and English and the prices are in euros. If you order more than 30 euros worth of goods (not hard to do) then delivery is free.

They used to send goods by Airsure which took a week or so to arrive. The latest parcel though came by DHL in much shorter time.

I reckon when Spaniards have sampled the quality of Marks & Spencer merchandise and the prices charged, they will take to the website in droves especially for essentials like underwear.

A change of name

When Mrs Jackson took over as headteacher at the then Priory Community Comprehensive School in Liverpool where I taught, she promptly changed the name to Anfield. What she wanted to do was clear away the problems of the past and at the same time capitalise on a name that she felt was associated with a successful school.

We all know El Altet airport as Ailcante even though that is not its official name. El Altet is just a hamlet that most will never heard of.

Now, the mayor of Elche wants to make a change and add in Elche to the name making it Alicante-Elche Airport. He says that El Altet is within the municipality of Elche and so the name should reflect that.

No doubt there will be some expensive new signage if the change is approved. It will make no difference though because the acronym used by air traffic controllers will still be ALC and that will be the name on your luggage labels. Alicante is and will be the name that most passengers use as they check in for flights in the same way that liverpudlians still call their airport Speke and not Liverpool, John Lennon.

Bigastro councillors under investigation

Minutes of the council meeting where approval was sought for changes to the plan for Sector D6 are being examined by the public prosecutor. The issue under investigation is the interest that  the mayor Charo Bañuls (PP), the first deputy mayor, Aurelio Murcia (UPLC), and Fernando Moya (UPLC) had in what happens to that area of land. Their proposal was to relocate VPO housing in an area of land they owned. The prosecutor therefore wants to know about the assets that each councillor and their families hold in Bigastro. The socialist leader, Raúl Valerio Medina says that, under the circumstances, the three of them should have abstained from voting during the meeting.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I feel ashamed

Can I say first of all that I was no great fan of Margaret Thatcher. Although her policies never caused me harm, I felt sorry for those who were badly affected by them. I accept that the cure for Britain’s woes was shockingly  painful for many.

It is understandable that those who were most affected by Margaret Thatcher’s policies whilst in power should feel little sympathy for her death. The shake up of nationalised industries in Britain left large numbers out of work and many in Northern Ireland will have anything but fond memories of her.

However, the so called celebrations that have taken place on the streets of Britain where fires have been lit, shop windows broken and police in riot gear called out to quell mobs are a disgrace. From the pictures I have seen, most would not have even been born when Thatcher was in power. I am told that it is the National Union of Students who are stirring things up but I cannot confirm that.

The fear now is that the funeral, to be held next Wednesday, will be targeted by several groups of dissidents hell bent on besmirching the memory of Mrs Thatcher. Terrorist members of the Irish republican along with far left groups pose the greatest threat but there are also fears that Muslimist groups may also target the funeral as well.

Yet again, I feel ashamed to be British. How on earth can I explain this sort of behaviour to my Spanish friends who cannot understand the sort of mentality that drives people to these sort of acts at the time of someone’s death. I only hope that the “mob” save their celebrations until after the funeral is over so that the occasion can take place in a dignified and respectful manner. 

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Two sides to the coin

Margaret Thatcher died yesterday. On the one hand there are those that will pay tribute to her and on the other, those who will rejoice. There have already been street parties to celebrate her death and it said that champagne had been kept specially for the occasion.  

The truth is that Britain was on its knees when Mrs Thatcher became the first female prime minister. Ted Heath left a legacy of inflation which peaked at 27%, Labour took over and worsened the situation by buying off the unions and again printing money that the country did not have. Things got so bad - in 1976 Britain had to be bailed out by the IMF. The nationalised industries were overmanned and inefficient. The unions held Britain in a stranglehold. One of the worst examples was British Leyland who produced appalling cars and still the workers demanded more.  The company went bust in 1975 only to be bailed out by the government.

Then we had the winter of 1978-9 when the public sector unions made huge demands for pay increases –e.g  lorry drivers demanded 40% and went on strike when told they could only have 5%.  They stopped the supply of oil and so we faced long queues at petrol stations. In the end they got a 20% increase and returned to work. Strikes followed strikes, even the gravediggers in Liverpool joined in. Following the closure of 20 pits putting 20,000 out of work, the miners went on strike; we had a three day working week, power cuts and untold misery to face.

Following a vote of no confidence for the Labour government, a general election was called and Margaret Thatcher swept into power. She stayed in power for 10 years during which time she faced the unions down, denationalised utilities and won the Falklands war.

Thatcher is accused of breaking up communities, putting people out of work and generally showing hatred for the working classes. It is true that many were out of work as a result of de-nationalisation but then they would have been very much out out of work if the country had continued along the path of destruction that Labour was bent on.  Where things went sadly wrong though was when she introduced Poll Tax which Liverpool City Council refused to collect. She may have rescued Britain out of despair but the country paid and still pays a high price for her policies.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Not a wind up.

A couple who live in an apartment at Gran Alacant wrote in to the Coast Rider to enquire what they could do about an apparition they have seen in their flat. This is the reply:

It sounds like you have an attachment to the building in which you live, and in particular it seems to like your property. This attachment could be either a person or an animal - either way an entity which has decided that it is not ready yet to pass over. Often this happens when a life is taken away at short notice, without warning, where the spirit (we are all spirit living on this earth incidentally) has not come to terms with their sudden demise. It is similar to us on this earthly plane. If something comes from out of the blue to shock us then it takes us a day or so to come to terms with exactly what has happened.

For some people, a nasty, expected shock may take years to overcome, even a lifetime. I am wondering if a construction worker had a nasty accident during the building works. If you feel like removing this entity, there are a few things you can do. You can ask a medium to attend the property to cleanse it or if you feel like taking matters into your own hands, you can do the following. Get a sage smudging stick (available in holistic shops, psychic fairs, or purchased on line), hold it over a saucer and light it. Blow the flames out when the fire has 'taken', and blow again on it several times so that it is smouldering.

You need the saucer as whilst it is burning as bits will drop off which will be extremely hot. Now go around the apartment waving this in the air, start at the front door, pay special attention to doorways, window areas, corners, under tables etc - entities like 'hiding' in cluttered corners. Then get some sea salt - that is the easy part being near Alicante and the salt lakes! Also get some fresh garlic. Put a small amount of salt in corners of the rooms as well as in the nooks and crannies. Then pop some of the garlic cloves in the corners, on top of door frames, window frames, on top of the wardrobe, in cupboards etc. Say the Lord's Prayer, which I am sure you know and then go around the property either clapping or ringing a bell loudly. This disturbs the spirit and encourages it to move on. The salt, garlic and sage are all for protection. Now to protect yourself! Get some more of the sea salt, this time a large handful or two. Fill a bath with water and get in it. Salt again is cleansing and removes energies from around your body.

Now, this is the important part. You must submerge your head under the water, so hold your nose and lean back and dunk your entire head! This is particularly important and must be done as if you don't dunk your head, you are breaking the protection link. For any females out there planning on doing this exercise, do not wear a shower cap - you must get your head including your hair soaked with the salty water. Some of you by now may be thinking well what about going for a swim in the sea, surely that will do the trick! But no, you must have the bath in the property where the psychic activity is present. The last thing to do to complete the cleansing is to ask the spirit to leave your property, to go into the light. Then say, I seal this house with love and light. Maybe say another prayer if you wish. To keep the momentum going, playing loud rousing music will lift the energies and lighten the overall mood.

I realise that this couple are 'content' with their energies but I am certain that there are other CoastRider readers who are not quite as comfortable in their homes as they might be, without being able to 'put a finger on it'. The above exercise is a wonderful way to harmonise a property be their entities in it or not!

If this had been posted at the start of the month, I’d say it was an April Fool’s joke but it wasn’t; this is supposedly for real!

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go for my salt water bath and just for precaution I am taking a bunch of garlic in one hand and a bible in the other.

That will come as a blow

During the boom years, there were a lot of buildings erected on the coast that didn’t have proper planning permission. Because they were not regularised, the appropriate taxes were not paid on them. Orihuela council estimates there are between eight and twelve thousand homes that fall into this category.

It seems unfair that owners of houses that were built legally should have paid the taxes and those that were not have been able to avoid them. The tax amounts to about 4% of the value of the property and would bring an extra 2.5 million euros to the city if every one paid.

The council are now working with SUMA to notify owners where they stand and their obligation to make the payments.

Of course the letters will come as a blow to many households who maybe thought they had got away with not paying the tax or were unaware that any such tax existed. They will benefit though because, once legalised, at least they can sell their properties.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

As I thought

I’ve seen the photographs of the walkers who took part in the event for Manos Unidos yesterday. They have been posted on the church’s Facebook page.

As I thought, most were much younger than us and were kitted out in designer tracksuits and expensive trainers. They looked well prepared and ready to complete the 7kms in the shortest possible time making it more of a competition than a gentle stroll.

Our neighbour, Aurelio took part. I’m not sure whether he was able to keep up with the best of the walkers but all kudos to him for offering his support to a good cause.

They’ve come a long way

The last time that the Rolling Stones played Hyde Park was on July 6th 1969, two days after the death of the guitarist Brian Jones. Mick Taylor was introduced as the replacement for Jones. That free concert was apparently attended by over 500,000 fans.

This year, the Stones will play again at the same venue as part of the British Summer Time concerts. The difference is that fans have had to pay to see the Stones this time round. Tier one tickets cost £299 and supposedly will give access to an area close to the stage. Tier 2 tickets cost £199 and general admission tickets, £95.

In spite of the prices, the 65,000 tickets sold out within five minutes of being released. The only way to get one now is to go to an unofficial website and pay up to £12,000.

The Stones are also named as headline act at Glastonbury on June 29th but don’t expect to get a ticket for that because they too are sold out. 

The first time I saw the Stones was in a theatre at Bradford in 1964. From the balcony seats we could see the band but did not hear any of the music which was drowned out by the screaming girls at the front. As we came out of the theatre, the Stones walked right past us – sadly we did not have the presence of mind to ask for autographs.

Pamela and I have seen the band three times since then, first at Don Valley, Sheffield and then again at Wembley Stadium and finally at Twickenham Rugby Ground. The acoustics at Don Valley and Wembley were much better than those at Twickenham.

Friday, April 05, 2013

A gentle stroll!


If you are looking for a bit of exercise tomorrow morning and at the same time benefit a great cause then go down to the Plaza de la Constitución for 9:30am.

The walk will be on the flat over 7kms and take about 2 hours to complete.

Participants are asked to donate 3 euros – the first 150 will get a T-shirt and the rest a badge from Manos Unidos.

Now for the route: from the Plaza de la Constitución the route will take the walkers to the Auditorium and across the bridge to “Los Heurtos de Ocio”. From there they will walk to the houses "Los Estacas". They will then follow the “Reguerón"and travel past the sports centre in the direction of Jacarilla. At the first bridge, the route will detour to "El Copo" and from there return towards Bigastro along to the road to "la Pasarela" and finally la Plaza de la Constitución.

There is more than a strong possibility of rain today but tomorrow promises to be bright and sunny with a strong breeze to keep the walkers cool.

Pam and I walked last year in support of the Alzheimer's association in Bigastro and yes the route was flat. However, most of the walkers were young and fit and so we soon got left behind. Pamela’s knees started to trouble her and so we took a short cut at the Sports Centre back into Bigastro. Even still, we were knackered by the time we reached the park. We are more than willing to donate 6 euros to Manos Unidos but will pass on walking this time!!

Bending the rules

What do you do if the local police slap a parking ticket on your car and you happen to be the councillor responsible for Police in your town?

If you are Eduardo Gil Rebollo, councillor in Torrevieja, you change the sign to one that allows parking for up to three hours before 6pm effectively letting yourself off the fine and allowing you to park there again.

Sr Rebollo was one of the councillors who was caught using his council mobile phone to download from porn channels. He has also failed to make agreements with the local police. In all, the opposition parties claim he is a liability to the party he represents and exemplifies all that is wrong in local politics.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

The weather

The State Agency website is offline at the moment so no weather for today! I can tell you though that we can expect light rain for much of the day on Friday and that the wind will return on Saturday and again on Monday. Those of you who have put the winter clothes away should remember that it is only April.

No menu del dia

Most people who enjoy good food will have heard of Ferran Adria who ran the kitchen at elBulli restaurant for 27 years. The restaurant held 3 Michelin star status for over 10 of them.

elBulli was only open for a limited period each year and accommodated 8,000 diners who were prepared to eat there for 350 Euros. Even still, the restaurant lost money and so was closed in 2011. The chefs now run the Tickets tapas bar in Barcelona where they still practice “molecular gastronomy”.

Adria is not going away though and so Sotheby’s in Hong Kong have just auctioned an opportunity to dine with him and his brother at a restaurant in Barcelona. The winner bid 220,500 Hong Kong dollars for the opportunity. Those who missed out with their bids will have another chance when a second meal is auctioned in New York.

Here you can see a typical elBulli meal – a succession of mouthfuls of food that you use a spoon, forceps or your fingers to eat.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

A fall in unemployment

March saw the first drop in unemployment during this month since 2009. There is still a long way to go; in the region there are still 59,125 registered as being out of work. Most of the jobs came in the services sector with only a handful in construction. Still it is a glimmer of hope.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Mystery solved

Actually two mysteries in one; first, why the street lights on Calle Le Vegan have been out for a week or two and secondly what are the bags of gravel doing by the lampposts.

The reason is because somebody had the bright idea to steal the electricity cable that connects the lights. All they had to do was lift the box by the light at one end of the road and cut the wire there and then lift the box at the other end and pull the cable through. Sadly, they didn’t electrocute themselves in the process. Instead, they got away with a decent length of copper cable that would have been subsequently sold for scrap.

I understand that the cable has now been replaced and this is where the gravel comes in. Once the cable was in place, the boxes were filled with gravel. That means that, if anybody tries to pull the same trick in future, they will have to go to each box and dig out the gravel before they can drag the cable through.

Hopefully now, the lights on that stretch of road will be lit again making it a whole lot safer for people using it.

Don’t tell her I said so

Today is Pam’s birthday and she is now 66 years young. You can send her a message at pamwilliamson@telefonica.net and make her day!!!

A wind up

The clever ones amongst you will have realised that my story about the proposed wind farms in our area was in fact a “wind” up. Yesterday was April Fools day, when newspapers published stories with a ring of truth but which were completely false. It has been a few years since I posted the last April Fool’s story so I thought it was time for another.

Here are some of the other false stories that have appeared yesterday:

Google debuted its latest feature, Treasure Maps, a pirate-style design complete with 2D hand-drawn landmarks and hidden treasure chests.

The map uses a spyglass to zoom in for Street View, with a rounded telescopic frame and old-school filter.

To access, visit Google Maps and click on the 'Treasure' picture icon in the right-hand corner. Instructions for the 'beta technology' warn: "Your system may not be able to display at higher resolutions than paper print."

The Telegraph reports that the government has created a taskforce armed with binoculars, and headed up by a dedicated ‘Lights Tsar’, charged with switching off the country’s lights in a bid to cut Britain’s energy usage ahead of a looming power crunch.

Thousands of employees will be tasked with going door-to-door to businesses and homes to manually switch off unnecessary lights. Staff at the agency will be able to issue penalty notices to repeat offenders and will be kitted out with binoculars and other equipment to allow them to ascertain whether rooms are empty or in use.

The policy was described by energy expert Olaf Priol as a “win-win-win” for the Coalition. A DECC source said: “We are committed to making these lights go out.”

The Guardian has launched ‘augmented reality’ glasses designed to offer wearers immersive liberal insights and filter out bigoted views.

The groundbreaking Guardian Goggles will beam its journalism directly into the wearer's visual field, enabling users to see the world through the Guardian's eyes at all times.

The motion-sensitive spectacles overlay the wearer's view of their surroundings with a real-time stream of specially-curated opinions from the paper's reporters, critics and commentators, letting users call up features such as a ‘Mini-Monbiot’ app.

The spectacles also feature optional built-in anti-bigotry technology, which prevents exposure to non-Guardian opinions by blacking out columns by Melanie Phillips or Richard Littlejohn, among other writers, as soon as the user attempts to look at them.

The Sun says that the Rolling Stones spent the chilly Easter weekend camping out in preparation for their stint at Glastonbury this year.

Sir Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood braved biting winds to slum it in a £70 Blacks tent.

Mick immediately tweeted: “Can’t wait to play Glastonbury. I have my wellies and my yurt.”

BBC Radio 4’s Today programme reported that from April 1, Northern Rail is replacing train numbers with barcodes that trainspotters can photograph and then upload to the web via their smartphones.

The barcodes are specially elongated so that trainspotters can snap them as the train speeds past, and also means they can help inform commuters about whether the trains are running on time.

However, pop impresario and keen trainspotter Pete Waterman is leading the charge against the barcodes, saying: “It’s not the same thing. It’s like email – you can’t beat meeting people.”

The Daily Mail carries the news that experts at an animal sanctuary have trained their owls to deliver the internal mail – just like the birds do at the fictional Hogwarts School in Harry Potter.

Kirkleatham Owl Centre in North Yorkshire introduced the feathered posties after budget cuts forced it to reduce staff numbers, leaving a backlog of mail.

Eight of the centre’s 45 owls have been specially trained since the ‘Roy-owl Mail’ project began last week.

The Mirror has announced it has become the first website to trial Instagram-style filters, letting readers view MirrorOnline’s homepage written backwards or as they would see it if they were drunk.

One of the filters lets you see the Mirror’s content by pretending your modern computer is a cumbersome 1980s processor.

The drunk filter recreates those magic moments on a night out when you've caught the last train home but are struggling to focus on the newspaper you found left on the seat next to you.

YouTube has announced it will be shutting down after eight years and will no longer accept videos, and will be selecting the best video ever uploaded onto the site.

Tom Liston, communications director at YouTube, says in a video: "We are so close to the end. Tonight at midnight, YouTube.com will no longer be accepting entries. After eight amazing years, it's finally time to review everything that has been uploaded to our site and begin the process of selecting a winner."

The video features cameos from YouTube celebrities such as Antoine Dodson, David After Dentist and Charlie and his brother (from the video "Charlie Bit My Finger" video), all talking about their efforts to be named best clip on the website.

Twitter has announced that starting today, it is shifting to a two-tiered system: a basic free service, Twttr, which uses only consonants, and a premium service which also includes vowels for five dollars a month.

The social networking site said on its blog that they’re doing this because by eliminating vowels, it is encouraging a more efficient and “dense” form of communication.

However, users will be able to use the letter ‘y’ for free, with early adopters like comedian Joan Rivers quickly adapting to the vowel-less way of typing.

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson has posted on his blog that his airline will be launching the world’s first glass-bottomed plane.

This technological innovation coincides with the start of Virgin Atlantic Airways’ first ever domestic service to Scotland, enabling Little Red passengers see birds-eye views of the country.

The Times reports the discovery of the writings of Captain Jasper Speedicut, a Victorian officer stationed in India and the near East, which has been hailed by historians yesterday as the greatest such find in 50 years.

Elspeth Morrison, Professor Emeritus of Sexual Relations in British Regimental History (1821-75) at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, said: “They provided an extraordinary insight into the life of a real soldier who somehow, against all plausibility, fought in all the major expeditions of the period.”

Speedicut found himself at the centre of 19th century Britain’s military adventures — not least in his work countering Russian espionage in Central Asia, a campaign referred to as the Great Game. However, historians believed that Speedicut — who was at Rugby School with Flashman — had left no written record of his activities.

Metro has turned the April Fool’s spoofs on its head by doing its own round-up of the best jokes and hoaxes – which is a spoof in itself.

None of the pranks in its round-up actually appeared on the websites it mentions, such as a BBC story about Nasa’s Curiosity rover quitting Twitter after abuse from trolls or Tesco creating a Tesco Value 3D Food Printer.

Metro said: “Too lazy and unimaginative to make up their own April Fools’ jokes, this year Metro simply decided to fake ten entirely fictional pranks other people didn’t do instead."

It continued: “Meanwhile on Twitter, others vented their frustration: ‘I really thought this was the year they’d pretend they were going to start charging for the paper. Trick missed,’ said @KingBants77.”

Agency National News is reporting that legendary RAF pilot Biggles really did exist, according to new research.

On the 95th anniversary of the creation of the Royal Air Force, the RAF Museum has found evidence that the famous literary hero was indeed a real pilot and not a fictional character created by W. E. Johns.

A combat report by Major James Bigglesworth was recently discovered in a collection of W E Johns' manuscripts and typescripts that had been in the Museum's possession since the early 1980s but are only just being catalogued.

Hotels.com has announced that from April 1, its customers will be able to book the Belgian Suite in Buckingham Palace.

Costing upwards of £10,000, the suite has previously welcomed guest including former President Ronald Regan and most recently, President Obama.

Butler service is available on request at an additional cost, while dogs - especially Corgis - are welcome.

My favourite though has to be this story from the Guardian. That and the idea that Twitter could run a two tier system were just priceless.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Lady luck was on our side

Apparently we were lucky with the weather yesterday in Bigastro because the rain stayed off until the end of the resurrection ceremony.

The 27 villages that make up this part of the province all held their own ceremonies some of which had to be moved indoors.

In Torrevieja, where the procession started at 8am, the rain just held off long enough for the ceremony to take place.

The were not quite as lucky in Rafal. The unique procession there started out fine but had to be moved inside for the conclusion.

In Almoradí, the rain stopped play altogether and the whole event had to take place in the church.

That’s a blow

As I have reported, there is a court case underway against the ex-mayor of Bigastro for allowing Eurener to start building a solar farm on protected land at La Pedrera. Now it seems that Iberdrola are looking at the same area and others beyond to develop wind farms.

As those who live here are aware, we have been exposed to an increased amount of wind this winter - apparently today we could face strong gusts again as the area is on yellow alert. This phenomena has not escaped the attention of the electricity companies who are keen to take advantage of the potential to generate electricity. Judging by the strength of the wind this year, we could be talking megawatts of power!

The attempt by Sr Moya and his relation’s company was bodged because they failed to complete the necessary reports and did not wait for permission from Valencia, Iberdrola will not make the same mistake. In fact there are already meetings scheduled to be held in the Auditorium (dates and times to be announced) to outline the plans and to gather public opinion. These will be mostly in Spanish although Iberdrola have promised at least one meeting to be in English because of the number of British residents in the area. An environmental impact study has already been undertaken which showed minimum disturbance will be made by the installations.

Wind farms are not the most attractive feature in the landscape though and their presence may well devalue our houses even further. On the plus side, Iberdrola have promised to subsidise the bills of those living in the area by up to 15% but only for clients on the “Verde” (green electricity) tariff.