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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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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

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.

Nicely Settling into Retirement in Rural Southern Spain

Our time in Spain was, until someone had the bright idea of Brexit, largely a summer sport but with the 6-months-at-a-time rule blown to hell, it makes more sense to spend the bulk of our time in the sun. Even today as 2020 draws to a close, it is for sure, cold in the shade in Andalucia, but distinctly t-shirt weather in the Southern Spanish sun.

Nothing the cats like better than pottering around at the top of our local mountain

It seems like we might have a spot of rain this week – something of a novelty – I doubt it will last. Stunning to think we’ve been performing this back-and-forth between the Northeast of England and Southern Spain for more than 12 years now, after decades of travelling around, mainly in Europe and the USA but also as far as China and Japan. In the end there are not THAT many places with the same combination of relaxed lifestyle and decent weather and right now, the idea of going from one country to another and facing two weeks isolation doesn’t seem very sensible.

None of which stops us from keeping in touch with our friends at home and we MIGHT be on the cusp of getting decent speed broadband at last. What we have now is good enough for HD TV but with not a lot to spare.

Does all of this means I’m ignoring the world’s problems? Hell no – but I’ve done MORE than my share of battling incompetence and it is time to back off and make the best of the “golden years”.

It’s a constant source of sadness for me that despite the Internet offering the potential to give more knowledge to more people than ever before in mankind’s history – in reality this wonderful technology has done little more than give fruitcake conspiracy theorists a larger and more gullible audience than ever before.

While those of us who truly want to learn are spending more time than ever before acquiring genuine new knowledge, it seems that significant parts of the population are happier listening to ever-increasing social media SHITE – to name just two of the more dangerous and/or preposterous claims – chips in the anti-viral and the moon landings being staged – both of which are incredibly insulting to the countless thousands who put in the work to get us to the moon and back several times and to the memory of those worldwide who have already died due to lack of an anti-viral combined with irresponsible social behaviour.

Maybe Musk is even brighter than we give him credit for – moving humanity’s smart people off-world could be the best idea yet.

Our hard working but badly organised NHS

Despite all the wonderful hard work of individuals in the NHS and our medical industries, there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Our bolthole in Southern Spain

Every single day I take several pills and have done for years in order to keep nature (I get SO sick of people saying that if it is natural – it is good – what a load of bollocks) from killing me.

No doubt about it, the pills, along with some lifestyle amendments are keeping me fit and healthy – but at what cost to the environment? Each pill is tiny and having listened carefully to the doctor’s advice when they were first prescribed, I have no problem at all taking the right pills at the right time – and yet every month, the new packs (all of them) come complete with endless packaging along with a totally un-necessary set of comprehensive paper instructions.

Worse, the pills are inefficiently encased, sometimes only 7 at a time, in oversized metal and plastic. A month’s worth is then wrapped in ANOTHER metal and plastic pack and the whole thing comes in a massively oversized cardboard box. You should see the stuff I end up throwing away when decanting these pills to my 2-week handy re-useable container.

This applies to almost every pill I take – the same prescription every month, the only exception being the sensibly-packaged American-bought, glass-containered aspirins. We told the doctor we’d organise these ourselves.

While on a short visit to the USA last year (Walgreens?) we picked up a glass container of 1000 80mgm aspirins with no extra packaging, no wasted paper instructions and no plastic other than the lid, for a mere few dollars. Now THAT’s the way to do it – if for any reason I SHOULD want to read more, I simply go online where endless medical information can be had without any waste.

This is Willow Cottage in Bloom – Early Summer 2020

Maureen’s been out in the front, gardening. Nature does it’s best to turn the garden into a vast unkempt forest but there’s an art to keeping only the flora we find pleasing – and a lot of hard work. Personally I’m easy to please and love having lots of magenta coloured flowers.

Willow Cottage Garden

The Simplest Pleasures of life – Chocolate and Soap

My wife just bought me some of this in Hexham – Beanies Mint Chocolate Instant Coffee. Not cheap, but very pleasant. I recently had a fad for cinnamon in my coffee and will likely go back to that after a while.

Meanwhile – this is a short video I put together about my experiences with a new hands-free infra-red foaming soap dispenser and my not-that-new infra-red water saver. It’s all in the video.

Holiday Quantum Reading Matter – Sean Carroll’s Book

I’m less prone to reading books than I am watching videos but in this case, I think Sean Carroll’s book “Something Deeply Hidden” could be worth sacrificing some of my holiday time for – ok, so it is freezing cold anyway.

Something Deeply Hidden

Sean makes relatively light work of getting your head into Quantum Mechanics, but more importantly Sean is very honest and open about the fact that although we use this very effectively to get real world results in a variety of disciplines, we don’t actually entirely understand the how and why. But then we made GREAT use of Aspirin long before we knew how it worked.

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Weekend Trip to Newcastle to see Holly at Work

As another decade draws to a close, I don’t do that many family updates in here so I figured as I was up early I’d put in a word for my granddaughter Holly and her new job at “Bar & Block” in Newcastle.

Having gotten used to inexpensive, cosy Spanish restaurants over the years I’m not that keen on UK city centre bars any more but this place in Newgate Street in Newcastle (Upon Tyne) wasn’t bad and service was good yesterday lunchtime. You might think they’d be chocker full around Christmas but early afternoon on Dec 29 things were nice and quiet.

Aside from the usual parking nightmare, a pleasant trip out and a nice break from the computer.

Bar & Block

Autumn 2019 in Wark

The weather since we came back to the UK has been pretty crappy generally but just for the record in case I forget, yesterday was LOVELY. I took this little number down by the riverside as Maureen and I were taking the two youngest grandkids for a walk along the waterfront.

Wark in Winter

And today, on the cards is a trip to the new B&M store in nearby Kingston Park. Well, it beats visiting garden centres…

The LED Lighting Sunday Lecture

Good morning all…

Benefit from my mistakes?.. in modernising our house lighting both here in the UK and over in Spain, we have totally gone over to LED lighting of one kind or another. Having been used to compact fluorescents, I kind of expect a couple of years at least, before lights give up.

LED lighting is currently a choice, it won’t be for long as supplies of older alternatives dry up.

The first thing I learned when fitting LED lighting is that manufacturer specs are rubbish, blindly copied from the actual LED design specs by the lamp manufacturers/sales people. The specs refer to LEDs running at reasonable (warm) temperatures. Typically, household lighting gets HOT due to poor ventilation. LEDs don’t like to run HOT so forget your 13 year life claims but 2-5 years should be do-able..

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Back to Wark

Despite the unbelievably poor state our ex-tenants left the place in (hard to believe that there are people with so little regard for where they live) the cottage is starting, slowly to take shape thanks to lots of hard work, help from friends and lots of money…. the man-cave should be largely functional within the week, the house itself will take somewhat longer. not the best of times to be recuperating from a stroke nor preparing for a carpal tunnel op but then no-one ever promised life would be fair.