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This is the UK website for Peter and Maureen Scargill. We live in the Northeast of England and also Andalucia in Spain.

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The BIG Update – Please Read

As some of you already know, we’re pretty much settled in Spain with the odd trip to the UK – and I maintain a pair of blogs – one for friends and others to se what we’re up to in our daily lives – I also maintain my very active tech-blog which is aimed at technical folk – between the two – they take up much of my spare time – so this blog which has in the past focussed on our UK experiences is becoming less relevant.

To save effort can I ask readers and friends to look into the Spanish blog for regular updates and the tech blog for anything geekish – thanks for looking in – historical info in this blog remains intact.

Bellingham Broadband or Not? Questions…

We recently noted an incoming email offering 1Gbps fibre broadband in our area (Bellingham, Northumberland, UK) from a company called WeFibre – and would we like to apply for the grant to make this possible? We duly filled in the government form – and went back to the company who were (grant-inclusive ) offering 1Gbps in both directions – for £20 per month – 18 month contract. How could we lose…

Typical modem/router

Well, for starters – the 1Gbps turned out to be advertised as minimum 500Mbps, later clarified (not in writing) to be nearer 900Mbps. At this point I don’t know which figure to believe as the guy from WeFibre seemed to think I would not know the difference between WiFi speeds and incoming fibre speeds. For reference, standard old 2.4Ghz WiFi in no way could achieve 1Gbps or anywhere remotely near it – but anyone wanting such speeds is likely to be using a router with WiFi6 – a recent standard or at the very least, a 5Ghz option and/or hardwired Ethernet.. I always go hardwired for TV and my PC.

But that wasn’t the worst of it, I said I might not be around in a couple of weeks, could they install before then? No. So then I said that a good time would be August (2024) bearing in mind I’m writing this early February – erm, probably not. On further enquiry, after all that, they could not guarantee IF or WHEN they’d be doing installations on our side of the bridge in Bellingham.

So what was the point of wasting my time with a non-existant service? Cowboys. If anyone in Bellingham goes with this company – don’t say you weren’t warned. I’ve been through all this kind of bull with a company in Spain (Habland – who recently became Excom) and eventually kicked them into touch – while slagging them off as widely as humanly possible for the trouble they caused me. I’m happy to repeat that with any company who insists on trying it on and wasting my time. If others did the same we’d all suffer a lot less cowboy nonsense.

Meanwhile I guess we’ll have to wait for a genuine company to come along. Remember the name – WeFibre. Timewasters.

I’d personally rather the telecoms companies concentrated on improving the 4G+ (and perhaps making possible 5G) mobile service between Bellingham and Hexham and then along the equally badly-serviced A69 motorway from Hexham to Newcastle. From experience in Southern Spain, I can say that given a decent 4G+ LTE signal, it is possible, with a 4G router like the TP-Link MR600 (v2 or v3) router and a SIM, to get decent, not very expensive broadband (depending on getting unlimited or near unlimited monthly data – difficult but possible in both Spain and the UK). In Bellingham, 4G+ signals are not that clever and routers tend to be less sensitive than modern phones.

There it is – my broadband experiences in Bellingham, UK. Previously when living in nearby Wark, I ended up with reliable, semi-decent-at-the-time (80Mbps down, 20Mbps up) broadband from Vodaphone (not mobile). I should say however that it took several months of fighting with incompetent staff (all of which unnecessarily cost Vodaphone several routers + compensation) to get there. No idea why it isn’t blogged in here. I recall several conversations with me blaming the telegraph pole and Voda ignoring me – it turned out eventually that the box under the pole was absolutely sopping wet and the wires only JUST holding together. After the OpenReach fellow was finished – perfection.

Meanwhile we’ve un-filled the grant form – a shame the governement chose not to allow freeform feedback.

Meanwhile, back in Spain in a town-edge area the telecoms companies could not be bothered to wire up, we’re happy with €20-a-month decent 4G+ based broadband until Starlink prices drop even further from the current €40 + €10 monthly equipment rental (no installation charge). That episode IS well documented here.

Did global warming miss out Northumberland?

Not sure how but we seem to have missed out on the heatwave over in Northumberland. I was there for Christmas 2022 and New Year to help get our new place in Bellingham in shape. I manage to capture what little sun we’ve had in photos of the nearby church and equally dead local baker.

Church in Bellingham - winter photo

Closed until January 9, 2023 it seemed hardly the best way to recover from pandemic/recession. Anyway, our house is in good order and being checked on regularly by friends.

July 2023 update

In July 2023 we were back in Bellingham for a short while – it seems that there was a dire situation at the bakers over the new year but checking now all seems as normal at least for now – and CONSIDERABLY better value than Greggs (rip off) bakers. Weather in July as you’d expect – some sunshine and lots of drizzle.

Sunny mornings, rainy afternoons in Bellingham

Although we got off to the above bad start, on July 30 we had clear skies at night while visiting our friends up at Lemmington Hall near Alnwick (Northumberland).

Life at Lemmington Hall
Life at Lemmington Hall
Life at Lemmington Hall

For more regular updates on our general lives, check our Bedrock site https://spain.scargill.net and for REALLY regular updates our friends can catch us on Facebook etc.

Life at Lemmington Hall

I tend to use this site now just for UK-specific stuff. Maureen is back in the UK for a while, late August and part of September so no doubt we’ll have some updates in here.

Merry Christmas 2022 from Bellingham

Nothing in the way of outdoor photos I’m afraid as the weather here is abysmal.. I’ve spend much of the season (since arriving late December 17) working on broadband and bust PC issues while Maureen does her painting etc..

I was just thinking how the conversation of TV over broadband goes… for years I and others have been reeling off what kind of speed you need for decent TV.

Well, over the hols I’ve been struggling with the usual provider issues, I spent more time today messaging Lyca BOTS and getting nowhere, meanwhile we’ve been managing for TV on a SKY (O2) 4G signal that is particularly slow thanks, as it turns out, entirely due to the crappy 4G roof mounted modem we fitted months ago when we moved in.

Here’s the thing… the TV picture quality is just fine.. easily 1080p and often higher on our 4K 50″ TV. As an example in one sitting this week we watched 5 episodes end to end of the new Jack Ryan series… perfect and yet the speed never went above 4.6Mbps download. Crystal clear imagery at speeds I’d have said were too slow.

Once I can get someone to bring some scaffolding to pull the modem off the roof it will be much faster… I brought another router with me from Spain (TP-Link) that, sitting in the downstairs window easily achieves 30Mbps+ on O2. But it turns out that’s only needed for my PC, not the TV.

Next time I take a Boxing night photo I’ll use a tripod and NOT capture the telephone line. Still – lots of stars out… too cold to have another attempt and dinner’s ready…

Night Sky in Bellingham Dec 2022

Hmm. Took a trip to the MetroCentre on Christmas Eve to see the new Avatar 2 movie – looks like they’ve made some changes to some stores since I was last there…

MetroCentre Angry Birds Cafe

Well, happy new year everyone, thanks for looking in..

Meanwhile, Back in Bellingham

December and Maureen is at our new(ish) place in Bellingham and by the look of it has been frantically unpacking and working on the place.

Bellingham, UK

Hard to believe but here it is, December 3, 2022 and it’s sunny in Bellingham, UK with hardly any trace of the usual damp clouds.

Meamwhile the kitchen is looking absolutely spiffy.

Bellingham, UK

And that’s all I have for now as I’m here in Southern Spain where it is even clearer! I was beginning to think after yesterday that the sun had shrivelled up – but no, it’s back. Good day for a festival.

Spain

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).