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

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Archive for the ‘Spain’ Category

A morning at the lake

Maureen and I spend the morning at "Embalse Del Negratin" this morning, enjoying the sun in preparation for a trip to rainy blighty…. got our list of things to do including getting a spare key for the Spanish car, fixing the Skype phone (who’s battery has inexplicably gone dead) and checking out Ikea to see if they have the excellent automatic stair lights in the UK that we just bought here… that and a thousand meetings… more over at the Bedrock site

Maureen enjoying the sun at the lakeside cafe

Watching your Favourite Movies on Holiday

tmpBCCFSince the release of NetFlix in the UK (for American readers – we know – we’re miles behind on this) I’ve been avidly catching up on movies I’ve missed and old TV shows. How? Well, Netflix is a streaming video service which not only has movies like LoveFilm but also has many hundreds of TV series – yes, not just shows but entire series..

Given half-decent bandwidth you can watch stuff in pretty high quality on your iPad, iPhone or Apple TV – even Android has "an App for that".

The first hurdle however comes when you try watch your favourite American shows on NetFlix – guess what – we don’t have them. Some of the best stuff is unavailable to a UK audience and worse, when you go on holiday, let’s say, for the sake of argument, SPAIN…

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The same of course applies to the BBC iPlayer. Now, I understand copyright… we can’t have the Spanish watching stuff for which they don’t have an agreement. BUT.. HEY BUDDY – I PAID FOR THIS ALREADY.   I paid my TV licence which means BBC content is as much mine as any other Brits… and I’m paying £6 for NetFlix – so why CAN’T I watch my shows?

Finally, ever been overseas and gotten yourself annoyed at foreign adverts on your browser, or perhaps Google comes up in the wrong version… same issue… read on.

Answer part ONE: There are solutions for these issues and more. All of these country checks rely on your IP address to figure out where you are in the world.. and if they spot that you are not where you should be – you get messages like the one above…. so what you need is something that gives you an IP address of the country you’re supposed to be in – so in the case of the iPlayer, the UK and ideally for NetFlix – the USA.

If you don’t know what an IP address is, it’s a number you’re given when you connect to the Internet. PCs don’t use names for addresses, they use numbers, the net naming system is just for our benefit.

VPNs (virtual Private Networks) can be used for the purpose of pretending you are somewhere else  and, in fact, any broadband router worth a light (so that excludes BT routers) will have VPN capability built in – so in theory on holiday you could route back into your own home in the UK… but there’s a catch. Your home broadband would no doubt pull in the movies at high speed – but it’s SENDING (upload) capability is probably RUBBISH… typical UK upload speeds are less than 1 meg – not good enough.

tmpEE3ESo what you need is a package of high-speed VPNs in various countries – without breaking the bank. HIDEMYASS does this – and so now, sitting here in Spain I have access to VPNs all over the place, England, France, USA etc. All I have to do is connect my iPad to the Internet, run up the VPN for say America – and Bobs your uncle – I look like I’m in the USA so NetFlix puts up the right information.

And that’s wonderful, PC, iPad, Apple TV and…. erm, no.  Over here the broadband speed is not that fast, it’s 1 MByte or so in each direction, being a WIMAX setup with an aerial on my window and a very LARGE aerial in the village below.  Add to that the slight drop in using the VPN and the quality is awful.

Answer part TWO: While it is customary to knock old fashioned PCs and even more old-fashioned FLASH, the fact is that while newer formats such as that found on the iPad and Apple TV offer GREAT quality, they are not so clever on limited bandwidth.. The humble Windows 7 PC when running Netflix and the iPlayer uses FLASH and it’s actually quite reasonable on rubbish bandwidth.

Plugged into a large LCD TV we’re sitting here enjoying the best of American and British TV and movies without a Spanish advert in sight… the only thing that’s missing is a handy remote control. Ok you’re not going to get the latest Sky series but they’ll end up Netflix eventually – just a matter of time.

Fist thing I’m doing when I get back is looking for a half-decent second hand laptop to be the new media centre – with these new tools (and CatchupTV) it’s finally possible to manage without a satellite or aerial – not before time… and as broadband speeds increase, it can only get better.

Planning a trip abroad? Like your TV – now you know how to get what you want, where you want it.

Incidental Pictures from Spain and France

Just a bunch of assorted images that didn’t make it into the Spanish Blog the first time around.  From our summer visit to Spain and France. These images will all expand if you click on them. Hover for descriptions – which also show in the expanded versions.

Valencia

Motorway café in Spain

Selection in Carrefour in France

Estate agent in SEES in France

Passing view in France

Back in England... rain and traffic jams

A Great Weekend in Almeria

Not much happening  so I figured I’d tell you about our weekend. We’re currently enjoying spending time in Spain.

On Friday we set off from Galera to see friends Angie and Dennis down to the area around Cuevas Del Almanzora, near VERA, in Almeria. One of the problems with Spain is… it’s big and in rural areas there are simply not that many main routes – so you might be looking at the map on the right and thinking “surely there’s a straight line from A to B – well, no.

Almeria

However, the route is pretty much motorway except for a short stretch at either end.

Arriving mid-afternoon Friday we all promptly went off to the beach and then after coming back to their place for a chat and a dip in the pool (remember we’re talking upper 30s temperature here – water’s pretty much part of the day’s entertainment) ended up in a nice little nightspot area nearby for drinks.

The following day we went back to the beach and after a battle with the (not insignificant) waves in which I ended up peddle-dashing my knee on the rocks – after fighting to get back on my feet without getting a mouth-full of salt water, I discovered I’d lost my specs in the sea – hardly a good start to the weekend as you can imagine.

Maureen Scargill and pal Dennis having a late night chat in AlmeriaThinking about it, writing this blog isn’t much fun without specs – so guess where we’re going tomorrow – well today as it’s 1.45am already Monday morning. Anyway, we ended up in a really nice restaurant Saturday night to finish off a very pleasant weekend break. We spent most of Sunday morning driving back up to Galera, but managed on the way to find a great market near Vera (and temporary sunglasses for me – I normally wear Reactolite varifocals). Spanish rural markets are much of a much-ness – you see the same Indian guys selling fake watches and fake sunglasses, but the quantity and variety of fruit and veg is worth seeing and in this case there was quite a large covered-over area selling plants, much to Maureen’s delight.

Almeria

We got home mid-Sunday afternoon and as it was too hot to do anything outside, I finally got my two new remote cameras working…lots of improvements over earlier models – these allow 2-way audio as well as quite decent imagery, though being cheap Chinese IP cameras the audio is nothing to write home about…. at least now I’ll be able to keep an eye on both the UK and Spain on the iPhone… handy given the increasing unemployment rate in both countries!!

Peter Scargill in Almeria

tmpBC47Oh, so there’s this puppy who seems to have adopted ourselves and our neighbours…he’s cute as well until he craps in the garden and starts barking at 1.30am – just after some “caller unknown” has rang twice on Skype and THREE have left YET ANOTHER stupid message saying how cheap calls are in Spain (despite being instructed verbally 3 times not to ever send me a text again). It’s going to be a long night…(Update 2014 – the puppy was later adopted by our <then> neighbours Richard and Chris who have since moved down to the coast where they have a bar)

Don’t forget you can see larger versions of most images by clicking on these smaller ones. More pics here on Google Albums or keep up with our Bedrock Facebook page

A pleasant trip

Pop over to the Bedrock site – we’ve had a nice, stress-busting trip away to Spain for a few days.

San Javier Airport

A Spanish Market

The market in Galera, SpainI’ve just realised I’ve not put anything in here since clearing off to Spain. Well, for those of you looking in from the UK I can tell you the weather in Spain’s a lot nicer than it is here. Having said that this morning it is quite cold, but the sun’s starting to appear so I’m sure that’ll not last for long. Head on over to the Spanish website to see what’s happening there. Lots of new stuff – we’ve had a new wall fitted, today we had new post lights… it’s all detailed on the site.

Meanwhile a glimpse of the weekly market in Galera. I just happened to be passing on the way to the post office and noticed how summery everything looked. This morning there’s a thick mist over the valley – but of course that’ll last until the sun gets to it. A good start to the day, Galerafound my long lost Spanish mobile frame with the PIN number on it… I had visions of having to change numbers again!

So a good start, now I just need to find somewhere that’s open selling milk – I’m in desperate need of a cup of coffee.. meanwhile we’ve been putting some finishing touches to the Hollyberry Cottage website. Anyone fancying a romantic break in Northumberland might want to head over to the Hollyberry Cottage site.

A Spanish Market

The market in Galera, SpainI’ve just realised I’ve not put anything in here for a while. I’m currently in Spain enjoying a short, email-free break from daily life.  for those of you looking in from the UK I can tell you the weather in Spain’s a lot nicer than it is in the UK right now. Having said that this morning it is quite cold, but the sun’s starting to appear so I’m sure that’ll not last for long. Head on over to the Spanish website to see what’s happening there.

Meanwhile a glimpse of the weekly market in Galera, Andalucía. I just happened to be passing on the way to the post office and noticed how summery everything looked. This morning there’s a thick mist over the valley – but of course that’ll last until the sun gets to it. A good start to the day, found my long lost Spanish mobile SIM frame with the PIN number on it… I had visions of having to change numbers, not for the first time! So a good start, now I just need to find somewhere that’s open selling milk – I’m in desperate need of a cup of coffee..

Meanwhile the Hollyberry Cottage website is all up and running, anyone fancying a romantic break in the Northeast of England might want to take a look at the site

You can’t beat a bit of Sun

Street menu in Galera at the midnight market Weather in Andalucia Whilst it is fair to say that WARK is not the best indication of the weather potential of the UK, being part of the Northeast and hence raining most of the time, there’s no getting away from it – once again it’s been a MISERABLE summer in downtown Northumberland. what on EARTH place does 10 degrees C have in AUGUST??

Incidentally, that sign of rain on Tuesday in Galera on the right.. I’ll bet by the weekend that changes to an Orange sun.

Weather in Andalucía has been wonderful since the end of July (head on over to the Bedrock site and take a look) and looks set to remain so. A little hot at lunchtimes but then that’s what swimming pools and naps are for. I’m getting my work done in the early hours as it’s comfortable t-shirt weather overnight outside, meanwhile our house in the UK is being looked after which is a comfort.

Weather in Wark

Collins Dictionary After a tea-totalling night last night in which we worked on the hot tub and I got annoyed with tech support at work, I got up WAY too early this morning to do a spot of coding on a website and to update my blog. It’s pitch black here at 6.30am but still cool enough to walk around in shorts, which is nice. Got my new dictionary on the iPhone… marvellous – £17 and I get both the iPhone and iPad versions thrown in. Third of a million words complete with audio recordings in both languages and the ability to completely cross-reference – and all offline. Beats the pants off the paper versions. I’m not convinced that “he’s got cheesy feet” is the best definition of cheese but there you are…

Chances of Rain – ZILCH

Just thought you might like to see this …  or not.. yes, that’s ZERO chance of rain in sunny Galera, Andalucia for the coming week, meanwhile it’s STILL raining in the Northeast of England! Head on over to www.bedrock.es for more….

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A Day

Roof Damage in GaleraI gave this entry such a bad title because that’s about all I can say about today… Maureen’s dad has taken ill and so she had to cut short our holiday in Spain to go and visit him. We had guests with us so I stopped over in Spain with them – we had a nice time visiting Granada but not quite the same when you know you’re father in law is in trouble and your wife is over there worried stiff!! We’ve quite a bit of damp and roof damage to sort after a particularly bad winter over there – meanwhile back in England things are not much better, our cat Rosie is still missing (probably for good now) and the weather is AWFUL. After a week of clear skies at 30-40 degrees in Galera, it’s damp and wet in Wark – it’s amazing what a difference the weather makes. What on EARTH made our ancestors stay here when there are so many sunny countries in this world is beyond me.. anyway, I’m here and taking the opportunity to update my blogs and get everything ready for various business trips. I’ve discovered free books on the iPAD – countless thousands of them in various forms and the iPAD is the ideal tool for reading this stuff, though I’ve decided I need to hunt Ebay for a case that will prop up the device when reading it. About the only really good thing about the day was watching the pen-ultimate episode of 24 on the Sky recorder – and what a CRACKING episode that was.

Solar Lighting in SpainThe photo on the right shows some solar lighting I picked up from B&Q and fitted in Spain – the picture doesn’t really do them justice, a set of what look almost like normal light bulbs but which are colour-changing solar with a separate solar cell. Here they’d be ok, but in Spain they get enough sun to keep them going all night long. Great for sitting having a quiet drink under the Pergola at night.  Back to the present, there is nothing nice I can say about today except that now I’m back after a week’s absence, our youngest cat is treating me as his best friend.  There’s no food in the house and I’ve lots of work to do in this house and on the rental property in between endless meetings coming up – too much to do, too little time.  Marvelous.