Thursday, September 29, 2016

Blunt refusal

Spain has been in political limbo since the general election in December 2015, when the Popular Party took the most votes but fell short of a majority. No party was able to do a deal to form a government, leading to a new poll in June. The result was more or less the same, with the PP coming out victorious but again falling short of a clear win. The Socialists’ refusal to abstain in the second round of an investiture vote has prolonged the impasse, which is currently heading toward a third general election, potentially on Christmas Day. An increasing number of voices within the leadership of the PSOE, however, have been calling for a rethink on strategy, in a bid to avoid imposing an unprecedented third general election on a weary electorate.

However, the leader of the Socialists (PSOE), Pedro Sánchez, was convinced on Wednesday that he was still in a position to head up his party and continue with his refusal to abstain, despite the fact that 17 members of the executive committee – accounting for just over half of the total – had presented their resignations earlier in the day in a bid to force him out.

Most would say that there is not a cat in hell chance of the PSOE forming a coalition that would work. If there was, then it would be easy to understand the stance that Pedro Sánchez has taken. If there was a third election, it is likely that the PP would gain more seats but perhaps still not enough to hold a majority. It is highly unlikely that the Socialists would gain enough seats to form a government so what is the point? It seems that everyone but Sánchez understands this.

If they ever tour England

I am sure this saxophone ensemble are very good and well worth listening to. However, if they ever decide to visit England, they may want to consider an alternative name.

Worth every centimo

Pam and I have already booked our places.

We are even delaying the birthday celebrations of our grandson to be there.

Whether our band win or not, it will be a great day - one to be proud of.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Definitely, well almost definitely

When I reported that we might get rain yesterday, Scout John emailed me to say that he was still getting his sun lounger out. John was right, not a drop fell and it was sunny for most of the day.

The situation though remains unstable and the forecast for Thursday shows a 100% possibility of rain in the morning.

Looking at the satellite image, there is a cyclone over Britain and northern France and an anticyclone over North Africa with Spain somewhere in the middle. I suspect it is the anticyclone that will move to bring us "mucky" rain. Maybe a good idea to put the sun lounger away John!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

We shall see

AEMET don't always get it right. Sometimes they warn us to expect rain and just a few drops fall. Other times they predict light rain and we get a deluge.

The issue today is that they just don't know. Showers are expected that could be locally very heavy so we might or might not a downpour.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The procession

Yesterday, following mass in the church, the brotherhood of the Virgin of Bethlehem carried the statue of Mary around the streets of the town.

The procession included members of the military along with town officials, the juvenile and infant courts and ladies with white mantillas. At the rear, the band provided a musical accompaniment.

You can find photos of this colourful event in the album accessed from the left hand sidebar.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Practise, practise and more practise

The more times that our band plays in concerts, the sharper their performance will be ready for the big event in Valencia.

Last night, they played in Los Montesinos along with the town's own band.

The programme included:
Los Barbas (pasadoble) by Ferrer Ferran
Jaque a la Reina by J. Gonzalo Gomez Deval
and Sidus by Thomas Doss.

The Agrupacion Musical Montesinos then followed with:
La Calesera (pasadoble) by F. Alonso
Piatus by Steven Reineke ( a piece that our band have played in the past)
and Libertadores by Oscar Navarro.

You can of course find my photos from the event in the album located in the sidebar.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

I will be there

This weekend marks the celebrations by the Brotherhood of The Virgin of Bethlehem.

As you can see, there have been various events taking place.

The culmination will be a special Mass on Sunday at 11:00am followed by a procession through the streets of the statue of Mary.

On this occasion, the procession will include the town band, along with members of the defence brigade from Alicante, a great presence by the armed forces assisted by the Royal Order of Saint Christopher.

At the conclusion of the parade, there will be a firework display.

Have you lost your tortoise?

A tortoise was found alongside a road in Bigastro. It weighs 40 kilograms and measures 70 centimetres long by 40 wide.

Since it does not have a chip, nobody knows who it belongs to. At the moment it is being looked after by the Fundación Internacional Raúl Mérida para la Protección de los Animales.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The main event

More than 500 members of the security forces and 144 vehicles along with 2 helicopters were deployed yesterday to recreate a mock flood caused by the overflow of the river Segura and a seismic catastrophe.

The activity was organised by the Valencian Agency for Safety and Emergency Response and the Emergency Military Unit (UME) who used all means at its disposal to address the situation by land, water and air solving in real time a variety of  different incidents.

The marshlands at La Pedrera was the venue chosen to perform the  maneuvers which recreated a great flood following a cold drop situation leading to the collapse of the Segura in Bigastro and Orihuela.

The catastrophe had claimed several victims including survivors and the dead. The joint operation used two helicopters, various inflatables, specialised canine units and divers to scour the marsh. They  also practised  diverting a river channel. In this case using the water outlet that provides resources from the desalination plant of Torrevieja to La Pedrera by placing sandbags and other items found able to hold the water back.


On October 23rd, our band will be competing with two other bands at the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia.

We have booked our seats to go, I will of course be taking my camera along to record the event. As a bonus, we will get to see this fantastic example of  architecture.

The Queen Sofía Palace of the Arts was the final construction in the City of Arts and Sciences complex designed by the Valencia-born and internationally known architect Santiago Calatrava, which began in 1995. The building, which houses four concert halls of varying sizes, was opened on the 8th October 2005.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


 According to the Town Hall, today is the World Day for Alzheimer. It is also the International Day for Peace.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Bigastro as it was

Many thanks to Pascual Segura for posting this aerial photo of our town on his Facebook page.

A military takeover

The III Battalion of the Military Emergency Intervention Unit is taking part in an exercise in Bigastro.

The aim is to improve their level of response to the effects of flooding and to develop better cooperation between the various agencies that would be involved.

The 400 soldiers along with about a hundred vehicles are camped out at the Sports Centre and the old  primary school.

The culmination will be a major exercise on Thursday, the details of which are not disclosed in order to maintain the element of surprise.

The last major flooding was in 1987 when the "gota fria" that year caused the Segura to burst its banks and flood towns in the area.

Will it be clean?

I don't know whether it will be clean or dirty or even how much we will get. What I am pretty confident about though is that, sometime this morning, we will see rain.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Our band in concert

This time in Los Montesinos as part of their Annual Fiesta.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

They still want to learn English

The demand for courses in English here in Bigastro continues even for the youngest children.

Still suffering

One of the consequences of the vote for Britain to leave the EU was a fall in the exchange rate Pound - Euro.

When we first arrived in Spain the rate we received on the transfer of my pension was about 1.48 to 1.50 Euros to the Pound. And even that was lower than the rate it had been in the years previous.

In the dark days of the slump, the two currencies were on par. Friends in the UK asked us how we were effected by that. My answer was simple, "how would you be affected if your salary/pension was reduced by almost one third?"

Gradually though, things improved and we saw the rate rise to a high this year of 1.432 Euros to the Pound. Generally, it stuck somewhere around 1.32 to 1.34 - that was manageable.

However, post Referendum, the rate nose dived and currently stands at 1.1772. That is the commercial rate, those who exchange money at airports or exchange bureaus will get far less. For my friends in England, imagine if you were told that your income was to be cut by over 12%, how would you feel?

Lloyds bank forecast that the rate could rise to 1.24 by 2017 which would be an improvement but nothing like the rate we received prior to the Brexit vote and still represents a cut of  14% over the best rate for the year.

Those who live in Britain may not care that we expats are getting fewer Euros and they will point to the fact that the current rate favours exports. However, Britain imports a lot of goods from Europe and for those they will pay more.

Nobody knows how Britain will fare once Brexit is finally in place. Those who voted to leave were convinced that things would be better by the propaganda. Many now are not so sure and feel that they were sold a pack of lies. Given the chance to vote again, which they won't be, they may choose to put their cross in the other box.

Those of us who moved to sunnier climes already know the effects of Brexit on our spending power. What we don't yet know is how it will affect our rights living here. Please don't tell me it will be alright, it isn't and most likely won't be.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Many more to come

Having won in Alicante, our band will now be competing against two other winners in Valencia on the 23rd October.

Since these are the best of the best, the stakes are high and so there will be many rehearsals to perfect the performance.

The last visitors

The last visitors to stay with us this summer left this morning. There are other visitors due to arrive tonight but they will be in Punta Prima.

Our first visitors this summer were Laura, Dave, Molly and Rory. I wasn't at my best, still suffering from the effects of my radiotherapy. It didn't spoil the enjoyment of their company but meant that I didn't take part as much as I would have liked.

Then, two days after they left, our eldest daughter arrived and we had a wonderful few days with her. By this stage I was starting to recover and so it was easier for me.

Hugh and Angela, our neighbours from Greasby arrived last Wednesday and have just departed this morning. Almost fully recovered, I was able to thoroughly enjoy their company.

I would like thank all of our visitors. I may not have been at my best but rest assured you cheered me up and took my mind off the issues I was facing. We had plenty of laughs, lots of good meals both here at home and out. I only hope that my situation did not spoil your holidays in the sun.

So where did we eat out?

Che Argentinian Restaurant at La Zenia three times - can't get enough of their meat!

La Cantina on the front at Torrevieja once. The food was OK but the service left a lot to be desired.

Wok Buffet near to Quesada twice. We like the simplicity of the place and the fact that it is popular means the food at the buffet is always fresh.

Rebate Restaurant twice. With a new chef, the food has changed. There is plenty of choice to suit all tastes on the Gourmet Menu. The big plus though is the location.

Monday, September 05, 2016

That was yesterday

And today promises to be hotter.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Seriosly hot

Today is going to be a hot one and tomorrow promises to be even hotter with a forecast high of 42 degrees.

The good news is that the temperature should then fall quite sharply on Tuesday to a more acceptable 33 C and stay around the low to mid 30s for awhile.

Nightmare paella

Here in Bigastro they call the dish arroz and the way it is made follows time honoured traditions which vary slightly from one cook to another.

What I make is  a form of paella and it neither conforms to the traditions of the Vega Baja nor to what Valencians would properly  describe as paella.

I like a lot more meat in my paella than most Bigastrense and I like my rice to be spicy in flavour rather than subtle. I add beans, tomatoes and red pepper to bulk it up but  long since stopped putting onion and chorizo into the dish. I use large chicken pieces so that each person gets a generous amount rather than scraps of meat with a lot of bone.

However, I am nowhere near as guilty of the horrors that some professional chefs in the UK try to  get away with.

Gordon Ramsay, a chef with a total of 14 Michelin stars and umpteen TV cooking shows, teaches an Englishwoman how to make a paella in one of his videos. The resulting dish does not even deserve to fall into the category of “rice with stuff in it.”

In best Kitchen Nightmares style, Ramsay launches into making a “paella” with (what else?) chorizo, chicken, shrimp, squid and clams. He then jazzes it up with a generous squirt of sherry, as well as a few chilli peppers – because it’s never too late to confuse Spain with Mexico.

But perhaps the worst part is the fact that he prepares this concoction in a frying pan, and it comes out so runny that he is forced to serve it with a ladle.

John Torode, an Australian-born celebrity chef, restaurateur and host of the UK version of Masterchef, also claims to know a lot about paella. However, he makes his paella in a sauté pan!!

Torode stir-fries onion, garlic, turmeric and paprika, then adds the rice, the broth and, instead of just leaving it be, stirs everything vigorously, lest the flavors should not gel completely together.

To his credit, Torode adds beans to his paella which will earn him brownie points with Valencian viewers. But then he botches it by sautéeing cod to decorate the paella, which he also tops with shrimp, mussels and the classic – and utterly useless – lemon quarters. Of course you need the lemon to squeeze over the dish but it should be in a dish by the side.

When the rice is done, he shakes it up passionately one more time, because he knows that a good paella needs to be mushy and that the rice grains should be crushed.

Marco Pierre White also rises to the paella challenge. Ramsay’s mentor, the enfant terrible of British cuisine and once the youngest holder of three Michelin stars, White states that he had the best paella of his life in northern Spain, and Valencians are going to have a stroke when they hear that. In his recipe, he adds a more-than-generous helping of white wine to his rice, and enough paprika to stop a moving train.

In the end though, you cook the food the way you want and if it is enjoyable and tasty what does it matter that the dish does not conform to the way it should be. Just don't try serving it to native Spaniards!

Saturday, September 03, 2016

The impasse continues

The result of the vote on Friday in the Spanish Congress was no different to the one before - 170 deputies supporting Rajoy and 180 against.

A growing number of regional leaders feel that it is time for the Socialists to reconsider their position and at least try to form some kind of coalition government.

If the political deadlock continues and Spaniards return to the polls, the new campaign would begin on December 9 and last 15 days, meaning the election would fall on December 25.

But both the PP and the Socialists have said they would support a change to the law, cutting the campaign times by half. This would make December 18 the new election date.

That would make more sense than an election on Christmas Day but even still. many Spaniards have no stomach for a third election and it is likely that turnout would be very low whatever day it is held. The result could well be just as inconclusive as the two previous elections and what then? A fourth, fifth and even sixth election wearing everyone down and costing the country millions more euros for nothing.

Friday, September 02, 2016

An election on Christmas Day

As expected, Spain's acting Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, failed to secure enough congressional support to get himself reinstated at a confidence vote held on Wednesday evening.

Rajoy earned 170 favourable votes from his own Popular Party (PP), the emerging centre-right group Ciudadanos and the small Canaries Coalition, falling six short of the 176 he needed for an overall majority.

Rajoy was unable to convince the Socialists that they should allow him to form a government and take Spain out of an eight-month-long political deadlock

The 85 Socialist Party (PSOE) deputies all voted no, honouring their leader Pedro Sánchez’s pledge not to support “that which we want to change.”

The eight-month-long political deadlock began after the original inconclusive election of December 20. A second election held on June 26 failed to improve matters in any significant way.

The conservative candidate gets a second try today, when all that he will need is a simple majority of more affirmative than negative votes. At this point, 11 abstentions would deliver the post to Rajoy. But so far Sánchez seems disinclined to grant them, and has yet to present an alternative that his party would support. If Spain is forced to hold a third general election, the strict timetables set out by current legislation would see them held on Christmas Day.