Monday, October 24, 2016

Our day out

Yesterday, Pam and I rose from our sleep at 5:30am to ready ourselves for the trip to Valencia. The purpose was to support our band in a competition.

There was a lot of fog on the way but by the time we reached Valencia, the sun was shining bright. Although we were in time to listen to the first of the three bands, we elected to go for a coffee and something to eat instead.

We did go into the auditorium to listen to the second band, UNIÓ MUSICAL DE VILAFRANCA. Technically, they were excellent especially the lead flautist who played most of the solo parts. What they didn't do though was play with passion, there was no excitement.

Last on was our band from Bigastro. They were excellent and thrilled the audience with their infectious excitement.

You can download my audio recording to check this out for yourself here.

You can see my album of photos located in the sidebar.

and the results:

Primer Premio con Mención de Honor: Associació Musical la Filharmònica Alcudiana de l'Alcúdia, con 376,5 Puntos
Primer Premio: Unió Musical de Vilafranca, con 320 Puntos
Segundo Premio: Unión Musical de Bigastro con 300 Puntos

Now I don't know about the first band however,  I cannot imagine why we were placed 20 points behind the band from Vilfranca. I would have easily have put Bigastro at least 20 points ahead.

Coming third did not dampen the enthusiasm though, our band were just pleased to have been there and played so well.

Next on the agenda was food. 

We were taken to a place called El Palmara which is a small village outside Valencia on the edge of l’Albufera lagoon. Set amongst the fields of rice for which the region is famous, the town is mostly composed of restaurants of which there are many.

Of course, the main dish on the menu was paella but before we got to that there was toasted bread served with alioli and tomato, ham and manchego cheese, calamares fried in batter and mussels.

There were in fact two paellas. The first was a traditional Valencian paella with rabbit and chicken, garrofón white beans and green beans and the second paella marisco which came without the beans.

For dessert we had flan and Vienneta. There was a seemingly endless supply of wine, beer, water etc etc. to wash it all down.

Then the journey home arriving back in Bigastro at 9:15pm.  A long and exhausting day in the delightful company of friends.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Chugging a beer

Increasingly used to accompany meals due to its versatility and cost, beer has become Spain’s favourite drink. And as it’s popularity rockets with Spaniards quaffing as much as 48 litres per head a year, the four main breweries – Heineken España, Mahou-San Miguel, Damm and Hijos de Rivera – are ensuring there is more choice than ever. Unfortunately, most of us still insist on drinking it ice cold, meaning we miss out on the aroma and potent flavor of the roasted grain.

Here, according to El Pais are the ten best beers for you to sample.


Brewery: Damm. Barcelona.
Type: original
Alcohol by volume: 4.8%
Ingredients: barley and wheat, flavored with coriander, orange skin and licorice.
Price: €3.95 (75cl)
Rating: 8.9/10
This is an original beer, created by Damm, Ferran, Adriá and the connoisseurs of the internationally renowned restaurant, el Bulli. Slightly cloudy, it has a potent flavor with hints of sweet, fruity herbs, and a creamy texture.


Brewery: Hijos de Rivera. A Coruña.
Type: Lager Extra
Alcohol by volume: 6.5%
Ingredients: barley and maize and Perle hops.
Price: €0.80 (33cl)
Rating: 8.8/10
Commemorating the company’s anniversary, Hijos de Rivera have come up with this malt-flavored beer with a pleasant bitter finish and undertones of toffee, flowers and herbs.


Brewery: Zaragoza Group. Zaragoza.
Type: Lager Extra
Alcohol by volume: 7%
Ingredients: barley and hops.
Price: €0.90 (33cl)
Rating: 8.7/10
This is almost a craft beer that wins you over with its full-bodied creamy texture, a taste finely balanced between its bitter finish and a delicious sweetness. It also boasts an exquisite aroma with hints of syrupy fruit and dried flowers.


Brewery: Mahou-San Miguel. Madrid.
Type: Lager Extra
Alcohol by volume: 7.5%
Ingredients: barley and hops.
Price: €2 (33cl)
Rating: 8.7/10
Mahou’s latest coup is a beer made from double hops with an imposing body and an intensely malty flavor. It also has caramel undertones and an elegant bitter finish. Its aroma is scented with dried flowers and ripe fruit.


Brewery: Mahou-San Miguel. Madrid.
Type: Premium Lager
Alcohol by volume: 4.2%
Ingredients: barley and a combination of hops.
Price: €0.80 (33cl)
Rating: 8.7/10
A classic beer, with a biscuity aroma of cereals, fruits and wilting flowers. Its flavor is intense and creamy but also refreshing with a bitter finish.


Brewery: Damm. Barcelona.
Type: Lager Extra
Alcohol by volume: 7.2%
Ingredients: barley and hops.
Price: €1.10 (33cl)
Rating: 8.7/10
A classic beer similar to the German brew, Märzenbier with an intense and layered citrusy and roasty aroma with hints of fruit and flowers. It has a pungent flavor and a rich, creamy texture with plenty of body and a lingering aftertaste reminiscent of baked bread.


Brewery: Mahou-San Miguel. Madrid.
Type: Lager Extra
Alcohol by volume: 6.4%
Ingredients: barley and hops.
Price: €1 (33cl)
Rating: 8.6/10
This is one of the most individual beers on the market and not just on account of its unmistakable bottle. It has an appealing taste that hovers between sweet and bitter and an aroma of caramelized fruit. And it manages to be full bodied and refreshing at the same time!


Brewery: Heineken España. Madrid.
Type: Roasted Lager
Alcohol by volume: 6.4%
Ingredients: three different types of malt and Perle hops.
Price: €2.50 (33cl)
Rating: 8.6/10
This is Cruz Campo’s best beer, brewed with different types of malt and aromatic hops, combining floral undertones with touches of fresh cereals and citrus. It is creamy, full-bodied and pleasant to drink.


Brewery: Moritz. Barcelona.
Type: Extra Premium Lager
Alcohol by volume: 7%
Ingredients: barley, Saaz hops and Montseny mineral water.
Price: €2.24 (33cl)
Rating: 8.6/10
This is a craft-style beer that is made with mineral water and floral hops. In spite of its full body, it is velvety in texture and very aromatic with elegant undertones of malt, cereals and citrus.


Brewery: Heineken España. Madrid.
Type: Abadía Lager
Alcohol by volume: 6.5%
Ingredients: barley and Saaz and Perle hops.
Price: €2.24 (33cl)
Rating: 8.6/10
This is an old traditional formula revived to produce a flamenco-style beer with an intense flavor, with hints of coffee and honey and a bitter finish. Its layered aroma is evocative of herbs, cereals, fruits and caramel.

New meters

Iberdrola have sent letters to everyone on the estate telling them that the old electricity meters will be replaced in the coming months with SMART meters.

For Iberdrola customers, it’s all part of something called the STAR Project, a state-of-the-art remote grid and management distribution system.

There is no cost to the consumer and we will be given notice of when the work is to be done by means of posters on lampposts etc.

 But what are they?

An electric Smart Meter is one that records power consumption and communicates that information to a monitoring station for management and billing purposes. Smart Meters enable two-way communication between the meter and the central control system. Real-time sensors provide information about power outages and power surges.

Many confuse Smart Meters with home energy monitors. The roll-out of Smart Meters is one strategy for energy saving. While electricity supply companies can save millions a year from their introduction, consumer benefits will depend on people actively changing their energy use.

Utility companies propose that from a consumer perspective, smart metering offers a number of potential benefits to householders. These include, a) an end to estimated bills, which are a major source of complaints for many customers, b) a tool to help consumers better manage their energy use – stating that Smart Meters with a display outside their homes could provide up-to-date information on electricity consumption and in doing so help people to manage their energy use and reduce their energy bills and carbon emissions.

Your chance to see them.

Pam and I won't be here so we will miss this - shame!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Bullfighting in Barcelona

Plaza de Toros, Barcelona. 

Spain’s constitutional court has overturned Catalonia’s controversial ban on bullfighting, imposed by the regional government in 2010.

Nine of the 12 judges ruled that the “preservation of common cultural heritage” was the responsibility of the state and that the Catalan parliament had exceeded its authority in banning what the court described in a statement as “one more expression of a cultural nature that forms part of the common cultural heritage”.

Though the ban on bullfighting enjoys wide popularity and political support in the region, critics have long insisted that it is more anti-Spanish than it is pro-animal rights. They point to a loophole in the Catalan law that exempts the traditional correbous – festivals where bulls are pursued, often with flaming torches attached to their horns – from the ban. Animal rights activists claim that, although the bulls aren’t killed, the correbous are nevertheless cruel.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Today is the day

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. My wife had treatment for breast cancer as have quite a number of our friends.

It is the most common form of cancer, second is prostate cancer. Both have good survival rates if treated properly but need early detection which is why we need the type of awareness that days like today provide.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The programme for Sunday in Valencia

SUNDAY 23rd OCTOBER at. 10.00am


Obligatory piece : “ Jaque a la Reina” by Juan-Gonzalo Gómez de Val

Pasadoble: “Vestigis d'Art” by Sergi Pastor Puchol
Free piece: “ Chamber Symphony no 1” by José Suñer - Oriola
Director: Sergi Pastor Puchol

Pasadoble: “1941 March” by John Williams
Free piece: “Four Sea Interludes (Peter Grimes)” by Benjamin Britten
Director: Pau Monfort Pitarch

Pasadoble: “Los Barbas” by Ferrer Ferran
Free piece: “Sidus” by Thomas Doss
Director: Diego Carrillo Soler

Friday, October 14, 2016

Escaped again

Some areas did have a lot of rain yesterday and there were bolts of lightening to be seen in the distance last night. However, as you can see from this bar graph, we didn't really have much rain to speak about and when it came down it was short lived.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Scary people

Dress up and scare the neighbours on Saturday the 29th. You can count on this being another example of the splendid ingenuity of the people from Bigastro.


Sunday was the Valencian Day, today it is Spanish Day - not just to celebrate Spain but all those Spanish speaking countries around the world.

A second chance

For those who missed this first time, the theatre group in Bigastro are putting on another performance of this hilarious play.

Even if you cannot follow all of the dialogue, the action will make you roll around in your seat laughing.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The programme for Valencia

The band will start with Los Barbas, a composition by Ferrer Ferran

The bodega "Los Barbas"  is a restaurant located in the town of Ayora (Valencia).  Described as a nice intimate place to meet and enjoy an unforgettable time with your family.

"The Whiskers" is a jovial, entertaining and accommodating pasodoble which reflects the atmosphere of the restaurant.

The second piece is set for each band to play. The chosen composition is Jaque a la Reina (Check to the Queen) by Juan Antonio Gómez Deval.

The premiere of this piece was conducted by the Municipal Band of Valencia under the direction of Fernando Bonete Piqueras at the Palau de la Música on January 17th this year.

The score describes a game of chess, where they pursue one of the most important pieces, the Queen.

The different sounds are intended to describe which game pieces that are moving  in a constant sense of threat. An unexpected ending leaves us in doubt about the conclusion of the play.

The final piece will be Sidus by the Austrian composer, Thomas Doss.
 This will be a familiar work to those who have attended concerts over the last year or so. Each time the band play the piece, it is different according to the makeup and the musicians taking part.

The PP on trial

At last, the anti-corruption trial has begun with 37 suspects in the dock.

Gürtel was a kickbacks-for-contracts scheme that has plagued the conservative Popular Party (PP) and has become the biggest known case of party-related corruption in Spain’s democratic history.

It has taken five years to unravel the complexities of the case which involves six regional governments and almost 200 public officials. Such is the complexity, the case has been split into parts and the first to come to court involves alleged corruption in Madrid.

At the centre of the case is Francisco Correa  and his activities between 1999 and 2005. Hundreds of public contracts were awarded to his companies, many without a tendering process. It is his name that led to the term Gürtel which is German for belt. He is known to many as "Don Vito", the Godfather for good reasons.

The former Popular Party treasurer,  Luis Bárcenas is also a key player in the case. His hand written ledgers of a "B" fund detail payments to party officials including regular payments to Mariano Rajoy.

The scandal has already cost the jobs of dozens of PP mayors, regional deputies and councillors, as well as a senator and a member of Congress. There are surely more to come.

Monday, October 10, 2016

False start

Originally the concert this weekend was scheduled for Saturday so that is what was written on our calendar. Of course I should have corrected that because I had already posted an item on this blog showing that the concert was actually on Sunday.

Pam and I prepared ourselves and went down on Saturday only to find the Auditorium closed. Still, better early than late. If we'd thought it was Sunday and it was actually Saturday, we would have missed it!!

Never mind, we made it in the end and were pleased we did. I believe this was the last public performance of the programme for the Certamen before the actual date.

There were some changes to the formation as there always is. Some band members have other commitments and others, who were not at the last two concerts, made it last night.

Whilst these changes might phase lesser directors, Diego just gets on with it and manages to sharpen up the performance each time.

There will be many more rehearsals before the 23rd and no doubt there will be a full turn out for Valencia. On the basis of last night's performance, I would say that Bigastro stand an excellent chance of returning victorious but then we do not know the strength of the other two bands. Fingers crossed!!

You will find my photos in the album from the left hand sidebar as usual. You can also download my audio recording of  the Jacarilla band from my Dropbox account. Be aware though that the file will NOT play from Dropbox, you need to download it to your computer first.

I also have a recording of the Bigastro band but that must be kept under wraps because we would not want the other bands to listen to it and try to gain advantage.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Could have been a costly mistake

A twelve year old boy from Torrevieja decided to set up a website to bring fame and try to earn money for his brass band. José Javier hoped that by signing up for Adwords he would be able to buy instruments for Los Salerosos.

Unfortunately, José confused the popular Google Adsense program (in which content creators and website owners get paid for ad space) with Google’s Adwords service (in which companies and individuals pay Google for advertising).

When he signed up, José gave his bank details thinking that Google would be making deposits to it.    Instead, he racked up €100,000 in advertising fees.

Google recognise that it was a mistake and that a 12 year old boy would not want to spend that much money advertising his website so they have agreed to waive the debt.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Sunday night

Those of you who were at the intercambio in Jacarilla will already know what a treat this concert will be. Another chance to listen to the programme that Bigastro will be playing in Valencia.

Jamie Oliver drops a bombshell

Jamie Oliver has upset many Spaniards with a message on his Twitter account.

Barely had he posted “Good Spanish food doesn’t get much better than paella. My version combines chicken thighs & chorizo” before the backlash began.

The tweet prompted immediate outrage. Furious replies came thick and fast: “Come to Valencia to try the real paella and stop making ‘rice with whatever’”, wrote Spanish journalist Vicent Marco. “Your dish is everything but paella.”

Other critics were less restrained. “Your paella is an abomination,” wrote one. “An insult not only to our gastronomy but to our culture,” said another. There were many, many more.

So where did he go so wrong?

The answer is simple - it was the addition of chorizo to the dish which is a real NO NO!

There are ten rules that you need to follow to make an authentic Valencian paella.

1. Don't mix seafood and meat. And only use seafood if by the sea. If you are using rabbit, then it should be freshly killed otherwise the flavour will be changed to something more like chicken.

2. True Valencian paella is made with rabbit, chicken and green beans in the summer, duck and artichoke in the winter.

3. No garlic. No peas. No potatoes. No stock and definitely NO CHORIZO!

4. Only use Spanish rice, preferably Valencian bomba or senia.

5. Cook over wood, for that authentic smoky flavour.The preferred wood apparently comes from orange trees.

6. On no account, stir it. The rice should stick to the pan. The layer of rice should be thin, maybe as little as one grain thick. That way, the rice will burn and produce what is known as "socarrat".

7. Oh, and the pan should be an authentic paella. Not a frying pan. And definitely not a wok.

8. Eat it straight from the pan, preferably using a wooden spoon. At lunchtime only.

9. If it's served in a portion for one, it isn't the real thing, it's been frozen and reheated. Or it's from Vesta.

10. For ultra-authenticity, it should only be cooked by a man. A Spanish man. In Valencia.

If you are going to stray away from the rules, then it is best to simply call your dish arroz or rice. That way you will upset nobody.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Open to abuse

When I was teaching at Anfield, over 14 years ago, it was only the older children who had mobile phones. There was no such thing as a smartphone. The devices were limited to making calls and texting. The fact that they were expensive to buy and cost a lot to use meant that only the better off children had them.

We used to insist that children turned their phones off in class and in fact some teachers took the phones off the children at the start of lessons. I recall an art teacher though who managed to lose a phone which of course the parents claimed was an expensive top-of-the-range model. There was no simple, foolproof way to deal with the problem.

How things have changed. Gone are the innocent days when the only way to send a message in class was to write it on a scrap of paper and get the other pupils to pass it across the room. If you were caught, it was either detention or a stroke of the cane. There was physical evidence that you could not deny.

According to El Pais, almost all of young Spaniards now have their own cellphone. One in three 10-year-olds has a phone while the rate is 78.4% for children aged 13. For children aged 15 and over, that figure is 90%.

Pupils in England taking exams have to surrender their phone as part of the regulations. As my friend Pete says, "you can find yourself  taking care of thousands of pounds worth of almost identical phones for the period of an exam". It is a nightmare that schools could well do without.

There is a more sinister problem though.

At Anfield we had a school wide network with computers in most classrooms. The IT technicians therefore set up a system whereby children could chat to each other but they had to close it down after less than a week. Instead of polite chit chat, the pupils were abusing each other with comments that they would not make face to face.

With widespread use of cellphones though, the school no longer has that sort of control. Children innocently broadcast their phone number to others who then pass the numbers on. Whilst you have to set up a relationship in social media, text messages can be sent to anyone including those you want to abuse.

For this reason,  many Spanish high schools have banned the use of cellphones in class altogether over fears of cyber bullying which is  responsible for one if four cases of bullying in school according to a new study. What the pupils do outside the classroom though is beyond their control.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Bigastro in the 70s

Pascual Segura has published a plan of Bigastro from the end of the 70s.

This was the time when the landscape of the village would change with the construction of the Huerto del Cura park, construction of the football field, etc ..and catching up with very important public services  -  like the arrival of drinking water, renovation of public lighting, paving, etc ...

We have to remember that Spain was recovering from civil war and an oppressive regime. The country, at that time was impoverished. Those things that we took for granted in England like a telephone in most homes and television were not available here. Even a supply of drinking water was considered a luxury.