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Winter

Is winter finally at an end? Well, lets hope so! One of the reasons any of us decide to
move to foreign shores, has a lot to do with the weather. Coming from the United
Kingdom, I have been used to the harshest of conditions as well as the best of summers,
whilst living on the South coast of England. Here the temperatures rarely fall too low; I
enjoyed the frosty mornings, brisk walk to work and at least had the luxury of a well
heated, double glazed and insulated home. It is a pastime of us Brits to moan about the
climate; its one of those things we do well. During the last few months of winter, all of
us, who live in Gran Alacant, had a lot to moan about. It was a little bit more British
than usual, as those residents who had stayed here and not returned home, expressed
with great eloquence, their aversion to the inclement weather, hitting the Costa
Blanca.

This is my first year, living in Gran Alacant. I had no idea what to expect, weather wise,
when I moved here. I had the usual stereotypical view, of plenty of sun, high
temperatures, sat on my balcony, drinking a chilled glass of wine. Of course, like
Britain, Spain does have seasons and having arrived in January 2016, I had at least
experienced a little chill in the air, nothing I couldnt cope with and quite happy to
endure.

This winter, was a little bit different from the norm, as many of my neighbours told me.
First we had the floods. Spain itself experiences on average, 320 days of sunshine a
year. Just before Christmas, the Costa Blanca was hit with torrential rain, all along the
coast. Benidorm and Torrevieja came off worse, with huge areas of these cities under
water, as local services failed to protect homes and businesses. Gran Alacant, did
experience its own problems. This was the first time in my life, that I had seen water
coming into my house. Windows and doors were leaking, rooms felt damp to the touch
and I was forever cleaning mould from the walls. I had never had to do that in Britain
and I dont mind telling you, it was getting me down. I wasnt the only person dealing
with such niggling issues, many of those I live along side, were also cleaning up the mess
left behind from bad weather. Everyone commented, they had never known such bad
conditions, in all the years they had lived in this area of Spain.

My house faces north, overlooking a ravine. The full onslaught of wind and rain would
hit the front of my home, causing water ingress. The houses here are just not built for
difficult winter conditions and as a result it can become difficult to tolerate. Standard,
homes, in Gran Alacant do not have central heating. With marble floors and single
glazed windows, the cold can feel extremely exaggerated. For a few days, while the
worst of the rain came down, I was laying towels in front of doors and under windows, to
try and stop the worst of the rain from entering the house. With poor ventilation,
dampness was also something to be aware of. This wasnt the Spain I had bargained for,
but I am glad it happened during my first year living in Gran Alacant.
In January, down came the snow; Spain does of course experience snow on the
mountains, that you can quite clearly see from my house; nothing harsh, just a little
inconvenient. Beaches, once again the length and breadth of the Costa Blanca were
covered in snow. The last time it snowed here was in 1982 and it had been a hundred
years since the coverage had been this bad. The scenery was beautiful and to my
absolute surprise, the Spanish coped remarkably well, going about their daily business,
as if nothing was happening. Back home in the UK, the slightest bit of bad weather
tends to cause major problems. Schools were closed in some areas, transport was
slower, but the reality is, Spain got through it.

Like Britain, at this this time of year, the electricity companies were trying to capitalise
on the worsening weather. I had just received my bill from iberdrola, it was 110 for a
four week period, which did seem to be at the higher end of normal, for what one would
expect to pay, during a typical winter month. A friend informed me, electricity prices in
Spain are among the highest in the World and the third most expensive in Europe. I was
interested to know why this is the case.

One would think, that with all the good weather, during the summer months, home
renewable energy would be the answer to high electricity costs in Spain. Nothing could
be further from the truth. in fact Spain is one of the only countries in the World to tax
this form of generation. Spain has a huge electricity deficit; in the past the true cost of
electricity were never passed on to the customers, so companies have been trying to
recoup their loss; the loss factor actually makes up around eight percent of a typical
Spaniards bill. From my research, it does seem that Spain was also exporting a lot of
electricity to France, as many of its northern neighbours nuclear power stations
remained inactive; this did push up the cost of domestic fuel quite considerably.

As winter reached its peak, a friend from my urbanization sent me an email, detailing a
new price rise of 33% on electricity and a smaller percentage increase for butane gas,
used my many residents to keep their homes warm. What a huge kick in the teeth,
during one of Spains worst winters in recorded history. Fuel poverty, is a real issue in
Spain, and something the Government needs to address, which is unlikely to happen
soon. Spain is governed by a coalition, which are primarily concerned about their own
self interest and nothing seems to get done.

The bad weather in Spain had an amusing consequence in the United Kingdom, with
many supermarkets and shops, running out of the good old British staple, the courgette.
Prices, not only of this small green vegetable, but many others, rocketed in cost, due to
the ongoing bad weather, throughout Spain, which does supply a large proportion of
Britains winter vegetables #FirstWorldProblems. I couldnt help but chuckle to myself,
laying under my electric blanket, in my cold house, being battered by wind and rain,
listening to the news report, on the BBC. Middle class Mothers, up and down the
suburbs, in the home counties of England panicking at the two pound a pound cost, for
the green courgette, they cant clearly do without.

What a winter it has been; snow, wind rain, hail stones, floods, leaky doors and
windows; we have experienced the lot, over the last few months. Someone once told
me, that you need to live in Spain a full year, to really know if you want to stay. That is
one statement I wholeheartedly agree with. Despite or maybe because of the dreadful
season, Gran Alacant, continues to feel more like home everyday!