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Lots of Things Happening late 2022

But as most of them are happening over in Spain – I’ll direct you to the Spanish blog – meanwhile we expect to spend time over Christmas in our new UK base – I’ll update this blog at the time. Thanks for looking in.

Very Quiet Summer in this Blog

It’s quiet in here as I’m not in the UK. Maureen is however, so I’m sure we’ll soon have some new photos of our cottage in Bellingham – I’ll just remind her. Meanwhile, I’m bored to death after eating something “off” last night and dare not leave the house.

I have no new photos and could not draw if my life depended on it so I thought I’d post something I’ve been playing with – art created by artificial intelligence. It seems appropriate at this time to mention the Queen, so I popped nothing more than the text below into one of the latest online toys. Out came this group of images – I hope they’re suitably respectful.

“Queen Elizabeth, light green dress and coat, with three corgie dogs in heaven, cinematic, 3D render, full body, 4k resolution, very detailed, photo realistic –ar 16:9”

AI Art - simple attempt at the queen in heaven with the dogs

Not sure where the background statues/people are coming from in the first 2 images – and I’m not even sure the BOT knew who Elizabeth is (was) but the general idea isn’t far off. That’s it for now.

If anyone wants to investicate this tool further – here’s a link. The tool is available on DISCORD. Enjoy.

New Beginnings in Bellingham (Northumberland)

It’s not the first time we’ve owned property in Bellingham (we’ve owned two cottages here in the past – Groom’s Bothy and Hollyberry Cottage) but the first time out of town – and really can’t gripe about the view. It’ll be some time before we’re ready for inside photography – so much to do, so little time – but here’s a quick view of the outside – front and back…

Rear view from our home in Bellingham July 2022

That’s the view from the back (Day of the Dead comes to mind but at least it’s peaceful and unlikely to end up as a housing estate for a long time!) and coming up, the view from the front..

Front view looking out from the Croft, Bellingham in July 2022

Maureen has put lots of work into making this a reality and hopefully before the end of the year it’ll have a functioning workshop – right now everything is a bit dis-ordered – but we have a functioning living room and bedrooms – that’s important. Obviously, none of this would have been possible without the help of our friends.

More later.

New Broadband Developments at Bedrock?

It’s been quiet in here as we now spend far more time in Spain than the UK.

I’ve recently taken the somewhat unusual step of putting a MARGINALLY technical blog entry over at our Bedrock site (recently address-changed to https://spain.scargill.net) – because it seems that at long last we have better broadband in Galera, no thanks to the local broadband provider but a great opportunity to learn something new about 4G.

Do check out the link above if you’re interested in what we’re up to right now. Not much to write about on the English side of things other than our forthcoming visit to our new UK base.

More on that later as we’ll be replicating the Spanish broadband setup in the UK during our forthcoming visit.

Meanwhile we’ve had friends and relatives over to visit – over to the Spanish site for more on that.

No other way to put it – Utter Crap

It seems that LED lights are not the only things that Poundstretcher sell that simply don’t work. As well as a subject I’ve covered in the past wherein Poundstretcher sell Hitachi-branded light bulbs that at best last months, often weeks and which are therefore to be avoided like the plague, I’ve also now discovered that their pretty looking white earbuds-with-microphone are utterly ABYSMAL. Binworthy in fact.

So, do I expect decent BASS for a couple of UK pounds? No. Do I expect ultra high quality? No. But, do I expect them to actually work? YES. I was in a hurry this week for some cheap earbuds as Amazon were out of stock of most suitable models – so off I went to Poundstretcher in Hexham.

When I got to my destination, I plugged the neat-looking earbuds into my phone – AWFUL. I plugged them into my Oculus – AWFUL. The volume controls don’t work and the sound quality is utterly ABYSMAL. Not only that but they don’t properly fit my bog-standard ears. I can’t afford to be an audio snob at my age, my hearing isn’t up to waxing on about frequency range (I’m lucky if I can manage 8Khz never mind the oft-quoted top-end 20Khz figure) but I expect the very basics to work in any set, no matter how cheap.

The Chinese are often blamed for producing rubbish – but I think that’s wrong – they produce to a price and specification – and clearly actually working was not part of the spec that Poundstretcher provided for their white in-ear buds – just as longevity wasn’t part of the spec for their Hitachi LED mains lighting (if you hear the oft-abused claim of 10s of thousands of hours for LED lights, it’s nonsense and applies only to the basic LED when properly driven – not when fed with the cheapest possible power supply – I do however expect to get years, not months or weeks out of modern lights – but I digress).

For reference in both cases I’m referring specifically to Poundstretcher in Hexham, UK. I’m beginning to think that we should just avoid the place.

While I’m here, credit where credit is due, we recently visited the nearby Hexham Homebase store. I’m no fan of their normal pricing but on offer they had 2-for-1 sets of orange flicker garden lights… the sets comprise 4 lamps and so what we came away with were 8 lamps for £12 – looks like a bargain if they last. They’re now up in the garden. I noted some sensible features – they’ve reduced the lights to something like 8 in a vertical row, inside a frosted tube in the main lamp – with the wiring at the TOP and a drain-hole at the bottom. The on-off switch is ALSO inside at the top – sensible. Time will tell if the seal holds (I’m at a loss as to why people fit on-off switches to outdoor lights which automatically turn on at night anyway).

May 2022 Update

The above solar lights are working in Spain with only one infant mortality to date. See this post for more on the lghts and please note, at long last our UK base is no longer in Wark (nearby, but thankfully not in a listed building with all the fun that entails).

A Good, Productive Start to 2022

Willow Cottage post-Christmas lights soon to end up at Bedrock.

After weeks of atrocious weather in Northumberland and even more atrocious power cuts, this week has seen some decent sun and we’ve been to visit our ex-Spanish neighbours and good friends over near Penrith, met up with an old pal from my FSB days and we’ve plans to visit local friends at the weekend – just as we’re having a shedload of work done to the house and garden.

Engraved Bedrock sign

Meanwhile despite Chinese holidays, I’ve acquired my second laser engraver of the season – and it’s a winner – with more around the corner.

Thanks to a very helpful neighbour making me some decent wood blanks as well as a great eBay site, I’ve been busy engraving signs for here (gate and rooms) and Spain.

Engraved bedroom sign

The signs of course started off a bit iffy but I’ve finally gotten to grips with spacing and the various techniques needed to do a half-decent job. In-between our travels and projects, we’ve done more than our share of shopping despite the UK’s current need to overprice everything.

Solar lighting

On one of our shopping trips, I found some new solar lights at HomeBase and bought them during a short 2-for-1 sale – talk about timing – 8 for £12 (2 sets of 4) – same price as the usual cheap rubbish per lamp but they look decent.

These will soon be going to where there is actually some sun, very soon as we prepare for the first mask-free hot summer in what feels like years.

We’ve both been very busy this winter between repairs, improvements and writing not to mention fittting a weather shield to the heating system (note the “mind your head” below), something that should have been there from day one.

Segmented, 3D-printed kitty

However, its done now and with more improvements to come. I cannot wait to get on that ferry, taking with us the segmented kitty our friend Suzanne made for us along with our three real kitties.

I thoroughly expect this will be the last cold UK winter the trio will have to endure as the future PLAN is to fly back for short trips to see friends and as need be.

Weather shield for the air-source heating

Cats – who would have them? We do!

I have NO idea how, but chunks of our information have ended up disappearing from this blog – like info on our various cats over the years – I’ll do something about that here. So, right now we have three cats – Simba (forefront in the photo), Ruffy and Cloe (the latter not shown – she was sleeping no doubt on our bed) – the latest in a long line over the years – Simba is, I would argue, the best we’ve ever had, despite the un-trusting look on his face as Ruffy tries to cuddle in.

Both cats

Ruffy is very friendly to his brother these days but there was a time when he would cuddle up and sneak in the odd bite – Simba has never QUITE forgiven him – either that or he’s peeved because he’s having to share my chair..

We just got our first “Roomba” clone AI vacuum and the cats are playing it safe.

Crysis Remastered – after years in the Wilderness…

Reality is all very nice – we’ve had some wonderful times since moving from the antarctic Northeast of England to sunny Spain – but back to the REAL world – Crysis – now REMASTERED… THIS is exciting…. glass of wine, keyboard, mouse – never did get into the joystick thing…. you simply can’t beat obliterating the enemy with a huge monster weapon as below – in a sunny jungle….

Even the impressive female voice in the trailer gets me going “Realised… with CryEngine”.

When they put me in the old-folks home, somone make sure I have headphones, Windows laptop, mouse and THIS….

Lovely Sunday at the Almuñecar market

Down at the seafront for a long weekend… our hotel (Casablanca) has great views and there’s a marvellous Sunday market within walking distance.

Any excuse for another coffee. Completely forgot to take pictures at the market…

Things could be worse, could be better

There can surely be no comparison, even in pandemic times, between the cold, damp misery of Northeast UK winters and the relatively dry and sometimes warm winters over in Southern Spain. It isn’t all roses of course as, while hunkered down to avoid Covid, TV in the latter can sometimes be a frustrating experience for Brits as the BBC does it’s best to stop legit licence holders watching quality TV while out of the country.

There are of course ways around the restrictions but the BBC, peculiarly seems to have disproportionate problems with low-bandwidth broadband compared to, say Netflix and other modern services – and this has the effect of producing a pretty low-resolution picture at times. However, there is more to life than sitting at home watching TV and after welcoming in the New Year down at the sunny coast, we just recently took a couple of day trips to Granada, in particular the Nevada Shopping Centre which is always a lot of fun.

Nevada Shopping Centre in Granada

And that’s where I spotted this beauty – the beautiful (now out of production, sadly) Yeelight Candela from Xiaomi. I spent more time than I care to imagine trying to get hold of this, first spotted at the Mi store in Granada (who actually had no stock other than a demo), then online only to find that most online providers had no stock and those who did have stock, had raised the price astronomically.

I found one Spanish online store selling the lights (which glow bright orange like a candle) at a reasonable price. Meanwhile shopping at one very large Chinese store in Granada we also picked up some new seat covers for our outside furniture. I particularly like the faux-wood effect covers as you’ll see in the example below left.

Our trip to Granada provided a welcome break after being confined to our village for a while but at the time of writing we still can’t get to those parts of the coast which are the warmest. Theory is, we’re going to get some snow at the weekend but right now we’re expecting 20c max today and sunny. That’ll do for March.

I’m spending every spare minute working on my tech blog and I’ve decided to copy something increasingly popular in bars and restaurants right now, using QR codes to promote their services, menus etc., with luck I can use the same idea on one or moew ceramic tiles to help one particularly hapless courier find our place up in the hills. I’ve also been giving the PC a much-needed upgrade to solid-state SSD and NVme drives, making the who power-up/rebooting process much less painful than in the past.

Maureen has been working on her garden including a spot of painting and moving large quantities of stones around, replacing pergola panelling etc with a view to giving the place an uplift and today the cats are off to the vets in nearby Baza, always an excuse for coffee and tostada in one of the many cafes up that way.

Busy times to be sure but it keeps us out of mischief while waiting for the return of “normal” travelling once the travel restrictions finally ease up, hopefully in the next month or so. Having the ability to stay in a bar or restaurant later than 6pm would be good, too.