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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Hours to go

Hexham to Galera tripLess than 24 hours to go and we start our long trip to Spain. Very roughly the image describes our planned route – from the Northeast, stopping over at a friend’s place, 24 hour ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao, then a couple of hours drive before another stopover before heading down to Galera.

Quite a trip armed with three cats and a car-full of “stuff”. But we’ve done it before so it’s not entirely new.

With rain and 13c max temperatures forecast for Hexham area for the coming week now is a great time to clear off. 

Galera on the other hand is forecast to have a constant 26c maximum for the coming week – that will do us just fine – great weather for fixing hosepipes and upgrading the solar panel.

Had a great winter here in the UK thanks to our friends – without which it would have been pretty miserable (the weather in the Northeast is always miserable) – looking forward to getting together with our friends in Spain for a great summer.

The Summer of 2015

Spain - Embalse Del NegratinWe’re currently spending our summer in Spain, having made some major changes to our lives. I’m no longer the National IT Chairman for the FSB – a role I held for 14 years without opposition. I decided in June that I’d spent enough time with the organisation and it was time to move on.

Maureen[4]Maureen is no longer teaching and we made the somewhat bold decision to clear off to Spain for the summer. Our old home in Wark is on long-term rent and Hollyberry Cottage is fully booked until our return in the winter. In the meantime the ESCO work I was doing for the EU had drawn to a close (at least for now – I’m sure it won’t be long before I see Brussels again).

Hence instead of making excuses for the British summer that never comes, we’ve been here in Andalusia (Andalucia if you’re from mid-Spain) now since July and despite some of the disturbing weather forecasts you might have seen for parts of Spain, we’ve had I think 2 days of rain and maybe 5 or 6 days of gloomy clouds all summer – the rest has been glorious – yesterday for example was 30c and sunny (general photos in this album). The last rainfall did a power of good for the lakes which are a bit on the low side this year, but wonderfully warm for it.

MIT BostonI spent a short amount of time in Boston this summer, invited by a Chinese group to help out at MIT and met some great people there. Mind you, the airlines lost my bags in the process but that’s another matter.

If you want to get into the whole Spanish thing – I maintain the Spanish Bedrock website where I detail our travels in the hope it is of interest to others… and there is also Facebook etc., the social media links are in here somewhere. Meanwhile on the technical front, the additional time this long break has given us has been great, I’ve been able to devote more time to various projects and learning on my tech website, something that just doesn’t work when you are flitting back and forth from one meeting to another.

Accordingly I’ve been learning all about Linux thanks to the Raspberry Pi 2 which has kind of forced me to make the effort – so my new home control project – detailed at http://tech.scargill.net has given me ample opportunity to start broadening my Linux skills – still very much a work in progress.

Spain

I guess most importantly we’re having fun and relaxing, something I’ve not done for a long time. We miss our friends in the UK but then that’s what the technology is all about – Skype, Facebook and other toys have changed the way people communicate, generally for the better though I am looking forward to face to face meetings with our pals on our return in November.

Spanish entertainmentThis morning, we’re off to Huescar for coffee and some bits and pieces then I have a day of wiring up to do, I’ve been re-designing the lighting here outside our cave and am trying to make the wiring as neat as possible. For now most of my updates are on the Bedrock site.

Boston

Public Transport

Virgin limitsToday once again, the Northern Line is in the hands of private industry and we were hoping for more as Virgin took over running this Scotland to London run.

Sadly it is not looking that way. I’m sitting on the Newcastle to London 14.00pm train to Kings Cross, first class. You will notice the screenshot on the left, taken from the Virgin sign-on page which looks for all the world like a re-branded version of that of it’s predecessor.

Note that “watch video streaming” is not allowed. I guess this is partly understandable because this uses up a lot of bandwidth – but then, that IS what people do these days – maybe it is time to modernise the creaking train connectivity which does not seem to have improved since it was installed years ago.

What is less understandable is “download large files” – by which they actually mean download ANY files. Dropbox is stone, cold dead, clearly blocked in an age where more and more of us use it for temporary file storage – i.e. for taking files on the road, today’s equivalent of the old idea of carrying a memory stuck around (and often losing it – ask the government, they do it all the time). File sharing is of course often used for downloading movies and again I could see that might be an issue – it is also used for transferring legitimate files however. Clearly they don’t want people doing business on the train, just as well they’re not currently running those deceptive ads showing people sitting comfortably doing business on the train.

Were we in a fixed location it would not matter as many of us have high speed connectivity of our own in our mobile phones which unless you were unfortunate enough to buy an iPhone contract as they tend to charge extra, can easily share a mobile connection with a laptop or tablet. But we’re not – and on the Northern run, just as on the A69, signal strength is, well, all too often a joke.

Maybe this is why they keep offering endless amounts of alcohol – to dull the senses so we don’t notice the other issues. Due to changing roles within our organisation, this could well be one of my last regular trips to London – I must say, the public transport journey won’t be missed.

I’m down here tonight to celebrate a colleague’s birthday at a nice Indian near Victoria no doubt and tomorrow morning we have an intense “Vision 2020” meeting, one of those ones with a facilitator and lots of buzzing – and then it’s back on the train again home, hopefully I’ll get a good shot at my home control development this week.

“Attention crew, disabled passenger alarm operating” – he’s probably cut his wrists.

A pleasant birthday

Crewe HallI have to say I did not hold a lot of hope out for today – this time in CREWE, stuck in a meeting the outcome of which I may not see as I’ll not be on the same committee when they next meet– however, the hotel is actually very pleasant. We’re staying at the Crewe Hall hotel which is a fabulous old building and the atmosphere is great – which is more than can be said for the food. I’d show you some pictures of the superb oak staircases but it’s all a little dark inside and every attempt at grabbing photos with my phone failed miserably.

It was my birthday today and I was quite stunned by the number of Facebook, LinkedIn and Skype good wishes – thanks to all for making my day and thanks to everyone who kept me laughing a good part of the day.

Crewe Hall[6]Spent the day in a long meeting – and in the process even managed a tiny trade that netted me enough to buy another Raspberry Pi (I think my enthusiasm in the blogs has contributed in some small way to the fact that everyone is now out of stock) and a complete set of surrounding toys (case, fan, WIFI dongle etc).

The day ended with a small number of us, mere remnants of the once-mighty curry club,  who, faced with the notion of supporting a large business with a not very nice restaurant, or a small restaurant with decent Indian food, decided to go out and do our bit for small businesses – and very pleasant it was too. Even that was not without incident as the management narrowly avoided a fight as one guy who’d finished the meal without actually having the funds to pay for it ended up in a slanging match with the manager. Ultimately he paid half the price and cleared off. As you’d expect, the police, no doubt tied up with something serious like a parking violation, eventually turned up long after the whole affair was over – that could have been exciting as we were material witnesses however they chose not to bother us.

And so tomorrow is another day – a day of meetings– and Ebay shopping.