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This is the Spanish website for Peter and Maureen Scargill. When in Spain we live in Galera in Andalusia (for clarify that is the English spelling - Mid-Spain they spell it Andalucia and pronounce it "And-a-loo-thee-a").

We've had a home in Spain for more than 14 years and are currently working on making the country our permanent base.

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Archive for the ‘Spanish electricity’ Category

The Winter of 2012

Arrived yesterday (Saturday), after doing the usual shopping round in San Javier and visiting my favourite Chinese junk store therein.

San Havier Airport

As you can see, the weather here in February at the coast is not that bad – it’s not summer that’s for sure but you could sit outside and drink coffee at the coast, no problem. For the first time we picked up our own car (usually we do car rentals but if you check earlier posts, we bought a Spanish car in the summer and so this was it’s first test). The storage company guy who dropped it off at the airport (right at the arrivals door – we only ended up walking 4 metres out of the airport!) spoke good English and warned us the battery had gone flat in storage (they check the car and get it working if there is an issue), perhaps not surprising as it’s been sitting doing nothing for 3 months – but as we found out – it was working perfectly and still is 30 hours later.

Aldi in San JavierOur new (old) Spanish Renault Mégane is so quiet when idling you would think it was turned off… and so we had a great 2-hour trip over to our place but not before checking out Aldi and the Chinese store and getting supplies for the week over at San Javier – definitely my favourite place to shop for food and rubbish up to now.

We arrived at teatime Saturday to discover that AT LAST we had proper electricity but no water… it’s sunny and several degrees here in the mountains during the day but it’s been quite cold at night. This morning Maureen got the hair drier out and the water is running but there’s a hairline crack in the cheap Chines crappy water valve…  no surprise there, most of the other stuff the original builder put in was, well, crap.

We took a slightly different and longer route than normal, partly as we decided to manage without the satellite and partly because – well, it was such a nice day.

Somewhere in Spain

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not summer and along the way we could see the snow in the mountains but for much of the trip the temperature stayed up near 10 degrees or so and perfectly clear skies, dry air and no wind which makes all the difference.

Just outside of Puebla De Don Fadrique

We opened the place up – no surprises other than the odd length of silica trying to fight it’s way through the concrete walls – nothing new there and easy to sort out in the summer… and after getting some heat going we went off to the local pub for a pint – so much for the diet.

Today, as I promised the neighbours, I put up some solar lights we brought over onto the tree on our newly re-furbished roundabout (not enough, needs more) and spent some time getting the NetFlix TV working properly on our limited broadband here in Spain – with great success – see the blog at www.scargill.net for getting Netflix and iPlayer working over here…  and I caught up with paperwork – not to mention both of us watching the best movie of all time (IMHO) – Iron Man 2 – AGAIN… the opening scene with AC/DC playing and Iron Man landing on stage has to be the best movie scene ever. I can’t wait for the Avengers movie coming out in May which will also feature The Hulk, Thor and Captain America to name a few – now they’ve pretty much gotten over the need to make these movies funny for people who never read Marvel, they really are doing a good job. A shame the CD Comics people seem to have missed the boat.

Tomorrow we need to get a hairline crack in the cold water feed tap fixed (well, we need to replace the tap – easy enough other than finding out where on earth the main tap for the area is!) so we need to organise a plumber, then we’re off to the local market to see what’s new. As always you can click on these pics for larger versions, hope you find this interesting.

Our view of Galera at sunset in the winter

Owning a Cave Home in Andalucia – a Reality Check

I got up very early this morning for no apparent reason and started looking through blogs on the subject of cave homes in Spain.

What a lot of rot some people write: We’ve been here for over 2 years now (part time) and so I thought I would create a short FAQ for those of you thinking of setting up shop here, not to put you off but to give you some real information:

Q: I’ve heard that cave homes maintain a constant 18 degrees all year around

A: Rubbish – and you see this repeated all over the place – it’s almost as farcical as some of the claims for Android tablets. The only way you’ll keep that temperature in a cave in Andalucía is if you keep heaters on all winter with the thermostat set to 18.  It’s October here now and when I walked into the place last week the cave was around 12 degrees. We’ve decided not to come here between November and May because it’s FAR TOO COLD inside and out. Last Christmas even with a wood fire on all day we still ended up shivering. If you live here all the time and can afford to run a decent pellet heater or similar then you might just be fine – but constant temperature without assistance – erm, no.

Q: I’ve heard that Cave homes in Spain need little maintenance

A: Re-painting is one of the main hobbies for Brits over here and it’s not that unusual to hear of bits dropping off – like parts of ceilings. You just have to look at how many places sell “Pictura Plastica” and various other white paints, plasters and mortars to realise they must be going SOMEWHERE. Every winter, mainly due to really poor building practices and materials employed in some areas, the lovely white paint just drops off external walls and needs re-doing. Part of the problem is the way they construct a lot of the caves with external walls being made out of simple breezeblock, improperly prepared and with plaster or paint slapped straight on top. Take a real look at any quiet area in the hills in winter or early summer and you’ll see the kind of renovation that needs constant attention. Where we are outside of Galera, it seems to be commonplace to utilise a fairly useless substitute for sand when mixing up mortar and it has very little strength – with the result that the nicely rounded walls you see (breezeblock with a dollop of cement on the top) fall to bits as soon as the frost hits them in winter. We’ve found that the choice of materials is paramount to getting the place to look good and STAY that way… and in many cases you’ll end up doing your own renovations if you need the job doing properly. If renovation is not you thing, then you’re going to be needing a good relationship with your local builder/plasterer!

Q: Isn’t living in Spain cheap compared to the UK?

A: No, it’s not. It WAS, but fuel is now almost comparable in price to the UK (strangely, diesel is cheaper than petrol here so there’s a price advantage there), small shop pricing (at current pound-euro conversion) is expensive and electrical goods are often priced through the roof. You can buy lots of things cheaply at the Chinese stores but the level of quality generally starts at poor and goes downhill from there. On the other hand thanks to free tapas, a night out at the pub can be very reasonable indeed. The thing I miss the most here in Andalucía is B&Q. I’ve not found anywhere that holds a candle to it, the nearest being Brico-Depot in Granada and elsewhere – DIY stores in nearby Baza are so very expensive.

Q: Isn’t the weather great in Spain

A: Generally yes, it does depend where you go. For example right now in October, at the coast there are temperatures up to 23 degrees and it doesn’t get that much cooler at night – REALLY nice – but here in Andalucía we’re looking at 16-18c with early morning temperatures as low as 4-5 degrees.  In the height of summer this year we’ve seen temperatures exceeding 40c in the afternoon – which is not much fun if you’re working but is bloody marvellous if you’re up to your neck in the local pool or one of the lakes.

Q: What about broadband?

A: All depends where you live. Spain has horrendously high costs of telecoms and are still very restrictive overall. For example you can get Skype-In numbers for many countries in Europe – but not Spain (still true in 2015). If you’re out in the sticks you have a choice of very expensive 3G dongle or in some cases Iberbanda Wireless. We use the latter – and it’s expensive – basic cost 40 Euros a month for less that 1mb/s – though it is that in both directions which can be handy for teleconferencing friends and family. It’s our experience that reliability varies unpredictably (2015 update: the broadband situation has changed, we use Habland and they are reasonably priced – but the broadband has a tendency to go off in storms).

Q: And car hire?

A: Beware, we just hired a car from the airport and they asked us to take their insurance (we have our own – and you need it as people here really don’t think anything about dents in cars as you’ll see looking around) – when we said no we have our own, they insisted on a 300 Euros returnable deposit – even though there was nothing on the website or the paperwork we had for the rental to indicate that this would be mandatory.  In the summer a truck took away one of our mirrors – and back at the airport, because we’d not had the driver fill in one of the company’s unfeasibly large accident forms at the time, on the road, they simply didn’t CARE who’s fault it was. Always check EXTRAS and the fine print and when parking, retract your mirrors – never fit into a tight parking space unless you want side dents in the car when you come back.

Q: What about crime?

A: There’s a reason people have bars on everything. Be prepared – it’s a recession – but then that’s the same back in the UK. We initially took the approach that crime had to be low or non-existent out in the hills around Galera – that was before local yobs broke through the front door in our absence and stole our TV etc.  Now we have a very pleasant steel gate which remains locked when we’re back in the UK – and inexpensive cameras we can monitor from anywhere. Local kids have been known to come out and cause damage to other properties. Don’t have false expectations and you won’t be disappointed – oh and out in the sticks – don’t even think of assuming there will be a police presence.

Q: Postal Services?

A: Well, we have a post box and post arrives  – but it can apparently take weeks for post to get to and from the UK. Also if you’re not there all the time, the local post office will only hold onto parcels or letters for a short time – then you’ve had it.  We’ve had 2 notices of deliveries and each time we’ve gone to the post office it’s been too late with no information as to where the delivery came from in the first place. Couriers are UTTERLY USELESS and will not want to deliver anywhere but the town centre. They need constant pressure to deliver and sadly many locals have given up trying.

Is there a happy side to all of this? Yes of course there is – the scenery here is wonderful, people are generally friendly and the weather is MUCH better than the UK. In my experience the Spanish are very friendly – the Brits tend to form into cliques little – but I guess that happens anywhere.

The Big Day

Alvarion broadbandYesterday was the big day for videoconferencing… I ran an IT meeting from here in the cave… 9 people in 6 locations in 3 countries – or rather attempted it.  After the biggest downpour of rain here in Galera I’ve seen in summertime… yesterday morning I  got up to find that one of my ADVENT over-the-mains Internet units had blown itself to pieces (less than 2 years old). Fortunately I started with a pack of 3 so I had a spare… which promptly refused to connect reliably. 

So armed with a less than ideal signal and Skype BETA (handles multiple video locations), GotoMeeting and my various documents ready to go for a meeting that started at 10am UK time, we started on time – to echos… no matter what we did, we got feedback and echoing.. we scrapped Skype and used Gotomeeting on it’s own with mics on mute until requested.. and so it was we managed several hours of meeting in 3 countries. I’ve a suspicion the problems were down to one site not set up properly but hey… still something new we’d not done before!

Galera Hotel - Monday nightThe weather picked up and so I decided the answer to the WIFI issue was to re-site the one router so it is line of site for upstairs AND downstairs – a mere matter of 8 metres of network cable and a small cupboard to mount the lot at the bottom of the stairs. 5pm, off we went to Huescar – and returned empty-handed. The electrical shop was closed and not one of the furniture shops we looked at had such a thing as a small cabinet. If we’d had a B&Q I’d have wrapped things up in one store.

So, as is often the case, it’s a trip to Granada (namely Carrefour and Brico-Depot) to sort out the bits we need. I’m hoping the weather is going to be nice for the drive and perhaps we’ll take in a bus tour.

If you’ve an iPhone incidentally you can now read these blogs in a special theme for the iPhone – just punch in the normal web address and you’ll get a special version of the blog.

Unpaid Bills

Apparently the builder has has not paid the bill… Electricity is off at our property in Spain – which means as far as I’m concerned, any theft, damage or hot-tub corrosion is chargeable to the BUILDER. If you’re reading this and are in the same boat… we need to treat this one VERY seriously! I hope we can all agree this is TOTALLY unacceptable. Bloody good job the weather’s not bad!!

Turns out that builder’s electricity is good for 2 years – and it’s 2 years! Hard to believe they could not get proper electricity installed in that length of time – my patience is starting to wear thin on this one – I don’t fancy the summer holidays with a generator!

Update! Electricity is back on and has stayed on for some time now. I have no doubt it’s still sub-standard, sometimes dropping below 200 volts which breaks appliances and shortens the life of electronic lamps – we’re already onto our second Jacussi heater, we’ve had to replace the timer on the dishwasher – but it turns out it was the heating element. Bulbs have gone.. the builder has a lot to answer for. If you’re living there and reading this – have YOU had appliance issues yet?

Despite all that I’m looking forward to getting over there and getting some HEAT!

Rainy days and nights in Galera

A fairly boring looking day today, weather wise, it’s not that cold, it’s not raining but then, it’s not summer either! Had a nice night in with neighbours last night after spending the day working on getting things working (successfully). The plan for this morning is to visit Huescar market (20 minutes down the road). We’ve only really taken notice of this weekly market in the summer when it is a SUPERB affair so it’ll be interesting to see how that goes.

It appears that there have been some developments (though not all good) on the electricity front and we’re getting a visit later on (apparently) to learn more! Those of you reading this who have caves up here might like to enquire later!  Voltage yesterday was near 200v as against a pitiful 170v the day before but it’s still not “real” mains and the heaters are acting accordingly.

The Spanish Way

While there can be no doubt that the weather in Spain is a major driver for Brits to clear off to the sun, there are a lot of problems in this country that not everyone is aware of.

I’ll give you an example – today we went off shopping to Granada. As usual, shoppers in front of us using credit cards were asked for identification (they don’t seem to use chip and pin here) but for once we were paying cash – at Carrefour and MediaMarkt.  It may be we’ve always used credit cards in the past or just not taken too much notice, but not only did the operator at MediaMarkt open up the goods we were purchasing (presumably to ensure we could not claim that bits were missing – not that they’d know the difference on anything really technical) but EVERY Euro note we gave them was checked through a machine.

This is either the height of paranoia or they have some SERIOUS fraud issues – I can’t remember the last time in the UK I saw anyone run notes through a scanner. Apart from the time wasted while this process occurs it does not exactly give you confidence in the people around you in the shop – the assumption being we’re all a bunch of crooks!!??

Another issue I’m becoming aware of is that no-one seems to know how to mix concrete – and if they do they’re not letting on – all around us we see severe winter damage despite the weather here CERTAINLY being no-where near the disastrous weather we had in the UK this year. Concrete simply falling apart because of ice getting into it!

On electricity – well, there’s a fight we’re just starting. Voltages in our area as low as 170 volts not only causes heaters to run at less than 50% efficiency it also damages motors which stall due to insufficient power and damages electronic lighting already blighted by the unfortunate fact that retailers here seem to buy in the cheapest Chinese junk they can get their hands on. I plan on next visit to bring in plenty of electrical equipment from the UK where at least we have some standards! Meanwhile we’re planning to take on whoever is necessary to get something remotely like normal electricity. Anyone local reading this – please note we need your input.

More on this later and you can’t get away from the fact that it was WARM this afternoon while back in the UK no doubt folks are freezing…