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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

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.

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.

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.