Monday, December 31, 2007

The end of a hard but good year

Well we almost finished the room for the end of the year. all the painting is done, and the lighting is up but we just did not get the floor finished. it needs one last coat of varnish. But it is a very good job, just look at the before and after pic:
Not bad..
This time last year we were in London watching the fireworks from the back door of the Streatham flat and wondering were we would be in a year. Well here we are living in a house in La Palma, I don't thing we ever believed that we could do it. OK, the place is bit of a dump but it is improving and by the end of this year we may even have an inside bathroom and a kitchen that is not from the middle ages. But this is our place and in a strange way it is home. My only hope is that we can make a go of things here. This new year will tell. May it be a good one for us here and for you all out there.
A Happy New Year
to all you out there in the world.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

T'was the night before the night before Christmas


And we are in bed listening to the radio, having spent the day working on the house, we got the ceiling painted and all the wood work tapaporoed (that's the first coat of varnish), and all the work on that walls is done... Tomorrow is the day to clean the house (Doing all the sanding of walls creates a lot of very fine dust that is covering everything in the house) and cook a cake... Then it is time for a day off, no work on the house for us, on Christmas day, we will be spending most of the day with our friend Sheila and her family. The plan for the day is to wake up (well we have to do that) and have Breakfast in bed (Normal Christmas breakfast of Bacon sandwiches), then its present time... After that it's get up and go have lunch on the beach (I hope that its not raining), Why - Becuse we can. And finally arrive at Sheilas for the rest of the day and a Very nice Christmas dinner.
So all I have to say now is to wish:
A Very Merry Christmas to all you out there

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Well Plastered

Something finished at last .. All the plaster (Render) is done on the ceiling. Looks good!Now all we have to do is clean the rafters, paint the ceiling, finish patching the walls, clean all the wood work, varnish it, paint the walls, and do the floor. And we want to get that done before Christmas!!!! It may get done this year though.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Geeko Rescue Service

Hi All. Well the the room is progressing very well, we are hopefully that it will be mostly done for Christmas but it may not be quite finished until the new year. We have got the first coat of plaster (render) on the ceiling and in doing that I have so far had to rescue 3 Geekos, one from under the wood before putting the render on, I just don't like the idea of entombing them under the render.
Geekos are quite little lizards that walk across your ceiling and scare the living daylights out of you with there laughing (their calls sound just like someone violently laughing).

Friday, December 07, 2007

Power to the people

Well things move on and finaly after 6 or so months we have finaly added the second panel to the solar array. And in doing so messed up the state of charge of the controlar so ended up not having any solar power for two days.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Rain Has arived

Last week the first rain of winter arrived here in La Palma, not to heavy, only about an inch a day or so but it does mean that the place has started to sprout, ( this should have happened about a month ago but at least it is here now). The funny thing is that it is December and the place is starting to look very green like spring. The seasons are slightly messed up here..... The other thing is that it is Cold (OK only around 17 Deg C), time to get the jumpers out...
On the House front things are moving along, the walls are mostly done in the front room and so is most of the wood stripped, now it is time for the ceiling .... We hope to have the room done for Christmas.
The garden is going OK, We have Collies, Cabbage, Potatoes, carrots etc all growing well. Repairs to the retaining walls of the terraces are OK.. but on hold until we have a few dry days to poor some concrete.
I have also been working to get the second solar power panel up, This requires the construction of two junction boxes with copper bus bars and cables to connect these to the panels, should have these all done by the end of the week.
Thinking back on what we have done on the house and have still to do I have realised that it may almost have been quicker to start from scratch and build a new house . When we finished we will have replaced or put in all the services for the place and that is something I have never done before - not from scratch (OK I did rewire a house in the UK completely for a friend once)...
I do wonder if we will get this place done.... or when we do how long it will take ... But we do do a good job...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Slow going

I have been ill recently with a terrible head cold. But on the positive side some things have been happening. Work on the front room has been going on slowly but the walls are almost complete and a lot of the wood work has been stripped. The windows have been re glazed.

We have also now exchanged our UK driving licenses for Spanish ones. After the normal chase around to get all the required bits of paperwork. We just left it up to the hestoria to got to the traffic office and do the paperwork. So we now have two little pieces of card that will do as driving licenses until our proper ones arrive.

We have also paid all our bills at the town hall. Only on slight snag was the fact that we should have gone to the town hall and changed them when we arrived. But this wasn't a major problem. Our town hall bills were as follows Rubbish Collection 38€, Water , Council Tax 16€

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Would you like to find this in the Bath

Yesterday we noticed this little visitor to our garden.. It is 6 cm long with an abdomen of 2 cm... for a spider living in our garden I think it is the biggest I have seen. If you found this in the bath I think it would run off with the soap!
We also had some very nice visitors to our small home to day, Sheila and her son Julio, Norma (a good friend and local singer songwriter) and her friend Phil, who was over visiting Norma. It was the first time Norma had come over to visit.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Plough the Fields and Scatter

Although we have not blogged for a few weeks we have not been shirking the work. We have done two weekends on the steps and have what is starting to resemble a ramp....see below: Mind you we have another 10 meters to go to get it all finished.
Inside the house things are moving along as well, The entertainment room is mostly finished and working, so we have a nice place to sit of an evening if it is only on two sun loungers - must look at getting a settee one of these days but are waiting till we have the door way cut for the bathroom. We have started on the front room on that side of the house, designated "the Library" or the guest bedroom. All the old paint has been scraped off the walls (along with some of the plaster) and most of one wall filed. slow going but it is progress especially now Theresa is at work 4 mornings a week.
I had a go at making jam this week end - It was all I could think of doing with the small amount of Grapes we were able to heaviest, 90% of the crop was cooked on the vine by a very hot spell a few weeks ago, most of the grapes ended up looking like raisins. The Jam ended up OK but the first try did not set so had to boiled it all again and add the juice of a lemon.. and that seemed to work. Next it will be having a go at Marmalade with all the Oranges.
Today we finally got started on preparing the ground for the winter crop, the growing seasons seem to be reversed here, manly due to rain, it manly rains in the winter so unless you can water during the summer you grow in the winter. An hours struggling with the rotavater and we have some very nice ground ready for potatoes etc.Just a note to say the Tabby (our cat from the UK) is having a great time here. Here she is hiding up the vine:

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Step by Step

We went to the town hall on Friday to finally pick up the works license for the steps out the front of the house. This is from the request we put in back in May and were told that it would be ready in 3 weeks. As we have found they have a special type of week here that has 30 days. But we now have the piece of paper that says we can work on the steps, and having paid 600 € bail we can now start work again.
The paperwork for the bathroom isn't ready yet. The woman at the council said it would be about 2 weeks so it should be ready some time in December.
The work has also started on decorating the spare bedroom / library which means the dust will start to fly everywhere, but at least this time we can tape some plastic over the doorway which should reduce it down a bit.

Friday, September 14, 2007

First Days at School and the Paperwork Trail

This Wednesday saw my first day working at the school in Los Sauces. After 6 Months of not working having to get up in the mornings came as a great shock to the system. The job isn't that bad all I have to do is basically talk English to the kids. It is still early days yet but based on the evidence so far I think that I am going to enjoy things there as the kids are really nice and fun to work with.

Of course with me starting work comes a whole raft of extra paper work. As I am effectively self employed I have to register for tax and Social Security. So we started this morning at that Hacienda (Tax Office) and having paid for the appropriate form a filled in the basics we went up to the appropriate desk and to my surprise the guy took the form and filled in the rest for us, stamped the forms and that was it. Next on to the Social Security, took our number, waited, our number was called, got to the desk, two seconds later were out again to get photocopies of the paperwork from the tax office. The nearest place was in town (the Hacienda is down by the port). So a walk into town and back later. We are in the queue again for the Social Security and after a few minutes we are being seen and lo and behold we have sorted out my Social Security. Then in order to get Helen added to it as my dependent we have to go to the office at the far end of town, so off we go expecting when we get there to be told that we will need a translation of the civil partnership certificate, but we get there and everything is fine and Helen gets her health cover to. So when we were expecting this paperwork to take ages and that we would have to run around for obscure bits of paper, the whole lot was done in one morning, and by Spanish standards that's a miracle.

At Home things are going Very well in fact we have now moved the computer and desk back into the entertainment room and all connected in, We also have the surround sound system wired in with the speakers mounted on the wall brackets.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Found it & I have a Job!!!

Well despite what Helen posted earlier about not being able to find the leveling compound, we finally found some. It seems what we needed was Cemento Autonivelante (Self leveling cement). So we got a couple of bags. Once we got home we mixed this up and laid it down, only to discover that I should have brought a few more bags and it didn't quite bring the level up to where we needed it. So I had to wait till Monday before I could go out and get another 4 bags of the stuff. This involves a trip virtually round half the island. But we now have the floor leveled and all the whole tiles are now down apart from the section where the door to the bathroom will be going. Next job to do is to cut all the tiles round the edges and lay those.

We have some news on the bathroom but it will have to wait until we have the paperwork through......

The next piece of news is that I have a Job! Yep as of Monday I will be the English language teaching assistant for the school in Los Sauces. OK it's not that well paid, it's only part time and for 10 months of the year. But at least it is a job and should pay enough to cover all the monthly bills.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Still moving but slowly

After 10 days it seems like we have not got much more of the room done , but all that is left to do is vanish the doors and sort out the floor.

To day Theresa went looking for tile cement and floor leveling compound, she got the tile cement but not the floor leveling compound. It seems that no one knew what it was... could it be that they don't have it here on the island. That could be a small problem, but we should be able to work round it.

We hope to be finished with this room by the end of the week. And then its time for a few other things and then on to the next room and work on the solar power instillation..

Friday, August 17, 2007

Looking better

Over the last few weeks we have really been moving into high gear on getting the entertainment room sorted, and at last things are starting to happen. We have had a number of issues which have required a lot of attention. The first of these is the woodwork, which was covered in a green paint which was very cracked and poor. This has been striped completely back to the bear wood, a very messy and time consuming job. Once this is done and the wood has been sealed and varnished the results are fantastic. The other major issue has been the state of the walls, the surface of the walls was so poor that the have required a lot of filling and sanding to get them to a state where we would be happy to paint them. The main problem with all the filling and sanding is the resultant dust which gets everywhere through the house. But now we do have paint on over half the wall and the ceiling is complete with the plaster being painted and the beams sealed and varnished.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

CCCCCCold.....

Some how I got talked into this.....

Our friend Sheila asked if we would go with her and her son Julio to join the other amateurs astronomers who were going to be out on one of the high peaks to watch the persied meteor shower. I agreed and we had decided to camp out at one of the local camp sites as we would be up quite late in the night and a 10 minute drive back to the camp site was better than an hour down the mountain, and anyway August in the Canaries won't be that cold.

How wrong could I be...

The night in question was Bad, as we drove up to the campsite we were hoping to come out of the cloud but we didn't, and by the time we had got the tent up and started to cook food it was getting dark, so dark in fact we ended up eating by torch light.

We went down to where everybody else was, as it was totally covered in cloud, add on top of that the fact that there were car lights on everywhere, people taking flash photographs, none of which aided night vision. When the cloud did clear the sky was impressive but unfortunately the meteor shower was disappointing. After a while we decided to call it a day as it was very cold. So we all returned to the tent and settled down for the night. In the early hours of the morning I was awake, needing the loo but not wanting to get up and wake everybody else up. Eventually I shifted my position and at this point Sheila said "Are you awake?", when I said "Yes" she replied "Good I can go to the loo now". We had both been lying there not wanting to get up for fear of waking the other up.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Biggest Telescope in the World

Today we managed to piggy back on a tour of the telescopes that was being given by our friend Sheila. This also included a visit to the GranTeCan which at 10.4M when complete will make it the largest optical telescope in the World.

Firstly we had a tour round the William Herschel Telescope (WHT) which is where Helen used to work about 10 years ago, it was the first time Helen had been back for a while as well. I have seen other large telescopes in the UK but nothing really prepares you for walking through a set of doors and being faced with a telescope that's over two stories high.
WHT Cassagrain instrument cluster with the ISIS specrograph and the bottom of the mirror cell, with our friend Sheila.

After a look round (not as in depth as I would like as it was a public tour) we went over to the GranTeCan. If I thought the WHT was big I was in for a shock. After putting on hard hats as this is technically still a building site, We walked up several flights of stairs just to get to the floor of the Telescope. As we came out into the dome my jaw just hit the floor. This thing was huge. The base of the telescope could almost hold a tennis court between the supporting legs.
Theresa looking at the base of the GranTeCan.


The base of the mirror supports is three stories high with the overall hight being almost twice that. The most spooky thing was as they rotated the telescope which weighs over 500tons there wasn't a single sound, the whole thing floats on a bed of high pressure oil and is rotated by a linear motor which runs completely round the base.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Back on the Road

Finally after two months our Berlingo si back on the road with Spanish plates. so were are now fully road legal with insurance, ITV(MOT), and road tax. This is a big relief as the hire car has been costing us a fortune. It also means we can now go out and get materials that it wasn't possible to get in the hire car.

Friday, July 27, 2007

At Last ...... Bertha is Back

Finally today Helen & Sheila went off to fetch the paperwork from the ITV (Spanish MOT) which will allow us to get Bertha our Berlingo van back on the road. I was expecting that we would have to wait a bit once we had got this paperwork, but when Helen got back I found out that all the paper work is done and we just have to go back on Tuesday to collect the documents and our new Spanish number plates. So hopefully next Tuesday afternoon we should be able to drive Bertha home again fully insured on Spanish plates.


Helen celebrates after sticking the label on the car which indicates when our ITV is next due.

The roof & The ceiling

There has been a lot of work going on since my last post

First the roof, The older part of the house had a flat roof which looked in a very sorry state of repair, with the waterproof paint flaking off and concrete to in some places. So we set to scraping off all the loose material off and patching the concrete up where needed.


Once the surface was clean and patched up where it need to be . Then it was time to apply the rubber biased roof paint. The was applied thickly with a roller using a paint brush to get the edges and any cracks in the surface well sealed. Two coats of this and we should now have a waterproof roof, or at least half of it, the other side which is a newer roof and in better surface condition does have one small crack which leaks very rarely. Once this roof is cleaned and painted all should be water tight.


Now that the roof is sealed from any leaks it was time to take a look at the underside. The underside of the roof is made from large beams of wood with thinner rough bits of wood between them which has concrete on the top to from the roof. now these rough bits of wood don't look all that nice, but the beams do. So we decided to plaster over the rough wood leaving the large beams exposed. We didn't want a perfectly flat finish as this would have looked wrong, so we have a smooth but slightly uneven surface which looks very pleasant and rustic. Below is a sequece of photos that show the process.


Don't worry to much about the yellow stains these will disappear under two coats of paint, this is just the colour leaching through from the wood. Talking of wood the beams have been sanded and given a coat of sealant which brings them up to a nice dark colour.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

M51 First light casa de Estrellas

After many weeks of cloudy nights and just being plain tired I finally had a clear night when I was able to get the telescope out. So having got the telescope out on the roof, While I got the laptop up and running, Helen sorted out the polar alignment of the mount. Once it got dark I started to align the mount, then took a look at Saturn which unfortunately to low to attempt any imaging. So having lost Saturn in the haze close to the ground I swung the scope over to Jupiter which was fairly high in the sky. Having had a good look with my eyes, it was time for me to do something which I have been itching to do for quite a while I finally got the camera out and took some shots of Jupiter. I was amazed at how easy it was to get the thing to focus and having the target stably in view. I always used to struggle on my old scope and mount to keep even large objects in view. I have yet to process the images of Jupiter. But having been able to get a few good minutes of Jupiter I though I would give things a good test. So I slewed the scope round to M51 and once I had it located I took a set of 10 exposures each of 60 Sec. The following day looking at the images I though hmm these aren't that good, there was a lot of noise in then image, then I subtracted a dark frame which is an image taken with the cover over the scope so it will just capture the camera noise. Having done this I was blown away there was the classic double spiral of M51. Here is the result after stacking 4 of the images and Helen adjusting levels in Photoshop.


M51 Stacked image from 5 60 second unguided exposures. Mount: EQ6, Scope: Skywatcher ED80, Camera: Meade DSI Pro, Filter: IR block.
Taken: 17 July 2007 00:00 (Yes Midnight) First Photographic deep sky image from Casa de Estrellas, Canary Islands

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Floored

Two major events this week and they both happened yesterday.
  • First we got the new floor down in the entertainment room, around 24 loads of concrete and one cement mixer. We thought that it would take most if not all the sand and gravel we had and 4 or 5 hours work. In the end we only used half to two thirds of the sand and finished in 3 hours. The only problem was that the cement mixer stopped working just before we started the last load .. so had to mix this by hand. Getting the concrete level was fun, used a laser , a peace of wood and a garden rake.. The laser is aligned with marks on the walls and a mark on the peace of wood that corresponds to the correct height of the concrete. The Rake is used to move the concrete around and get it level.
  • Second the previous owner arrived and cleared out the second under croft so we now have a second storage/work room to use.
Things move slowly on the bathroom front, we are still awaiting the quote from the builder and still don't have an idea which type of documentation is requited for the planing permission - mind you in a strange way I am not so bothered about it. It will get done some time, I must be becoming a local. The only problem is if we have enough Money!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Wash day Blues

Today I finally got to do the washing at home instead of driving half way across the island to use the machine at our friends Sheila. The machine was delivered several weeks ago but we just hadn't got round to sorting it out, so with Sheila out of the country it was a case of necessity. So having dismantled the worktop which was resting on top and moved the machine into the middle of the room so that the hose would reach to the tap, and it was ready to go. The only trouble is the outflow was via a large pipe that just empties out into the garden outside. All worked fine and we now have clean clothes. I tried to hang stuff up on the line to dry but with 30km/h winds stuff kept falling off so it's now all on the indoor drying rack.


On other things the floor has now been totally removed from the entertainment room. We have started to run over the conduits for the power, read surround sound speakers, and a feed for a possible projector which would be mounted at the top of the back wall. We now need to mark out the floor level and get the conduits fixed to the wall and then once we have the damp proof lining down start mixing concrete and put it all back again.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Breathing Space

Well thankfully today the previous owner of the house came and cleared out one of the rooms down stairs. So we now have another room available in the house, which means we now somewhere to store some of the boxes that arrived on Wednesday. On another note the plastering has been done in the entertainment room and I have got mains sockets and lights wired in the to rooms on that side of the house.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

It's Here

Well after three months our stuff we had shipped from england has finally arrived. This morning all 62 boxes were delivered. Everything seems to be OK in the boxes we have opened so far. One of the most welcome items in the shipping was all the major power tools, and also our DVD collection, we had brought a number with us but after 3 months we were beginning to run out of DVD's to watch. The biggest problem now is where to put everything, as the rooms downstairs at the front of the house are still full of the previous owners stuff we are very limited as to where things can go. This may create a problem in doing the floor in the entertainment room as a lot of the boxes are in there.

Monday, June 25, 2007

There's a hole in my floor

Yep there's a dirty great hole in the floor. OK it's there intentionally, after months of just sitting around and not getting a whole lot done we have started to try and crack on and get some things done. We had a planning meeting an came up with a list of jobs for the week and stuck them down on a sheet. Yes those of you at the telegraph where we used to work will get the irony, yes we have a resource sheet.

The first of the jobs we have decided to tackle was the floor in what we are calling the entertainment room. This will be the room where the telly, computer & stereo will live. The main problem in this room is the damp in the floor. Having spoken to David & Ann who are an English couple that live at the other end of the village. They have already done up their place so know a few of the tricks, so we will have to lay down a damp proof membrane under the floor, but to do this and still have enough space to put tiles down without having to remove the doors means that we have to remove all the floor and re lay.



As we're taking up the floor this was the ideal time to run the cable conduit and put the wall boxes in for the mains, 12v, TV & Satellite antenna feeds, Front and rear speaker connections, & Network connections. So we have been chiseling into the wall to put the wall boxes in. the main problem is that the wall between this room and the bedroom is very thin and made of concrete mixed with rocks so if you are not careful you can got right through and come out the other side. But all the boxes are now in the wall and all the conduit is run on the floor ready to go under the concrete when we have lifted the other 2/3's of the floor. The wall should be plastered later on this afternoon.

Right now the lifting of the floor is on hold as we are having to prepare clear spaces ready to receive all the boxes of our stuff which has finally arrived from England.

And as requested here is a picture of Helen in her ghost busters outfit dusting the vines with sulphur

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Of Windows, Floors, Water and Grapes

As always when one thing is done another three pop up ....

The first set of windows is done and they look good .. here are the before and after photos..



Although the second window is not painted yet, still waiting for the putty to set, at least you can not hinge the panes out.

The channeling out of the floor for power conduits was going well, and I suppose is still going well but after talking to another English couple who have renovated a local finca, we think it will be better to remove the whole floor so that we can lay a damp proof membrane to stop the damp coming up through the floor. OK I here you say, just add it on top of the sub floor that is there now. The problem with that is that the floor level would then be too height for the doors and door sill. So it looks like more of the floor has to go.... The work so far is shown here.

The filtering on the gray water recycle test blocked up again - so that has been temporarily removed and for now greasy and very dirty water will not go into the system. For now that will have to do..

Next on the list are the grape vines, 3 terraces of vines, at first seemed like a good idea but we did not quire realise the amount of work it would be. I have managed to handle on terrace so far. Striping off the extra leaves and shoots so that the grapes are exposed to the sun, I am not totally sure what I am doing - just following instructions for the Guy we brought the place from. And then you have to dust them with sulphur to help stop mold. We have this thing that sits on my back with a bellows attached to go around like one of the Ghost busters to dust the stuff... Got one terrace done yesterday and it rained today so I will have to do it again tomorrow...

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Play Time

Well last night I finally got to do one of the things I came out here to do. I actually got my telescope out and set up, OK it was on the roof which is luminated by a street light but It was a beautiful clear night. So having hauled the mount (Which is no mean feat, that thing is heavy) up to the roof and got things basically aligned. We started to look around Venus was a spectacular crescent in the eye piece. Then we had a look at Saturn which was just amazing, crisp and clear though sadly the cassni division was not visible but I was only using the 80mm refractor. After a little hunt around for a while (Possibly seeing M51 but very faint) we then noticed that Jupiter was visible so we slewed over to that and were rewarded with beautiful image with the bands across the planet clearly visible. Then sadly we decided to call it a night. Overall though the clarity of the sky was fantastic and the seeing magnificent. Also the money spent on the mount was well worth it.

Now all I need is for our items to clear customs and to arrive here then I should be able to get the pillar drill out and mount the 10in Meade LX200R OTA

Progress

OK, OK!!!

Project planing is underway and so is the preparation for the planing permission for the new bathroom and the covered terrace / out side kitchen / barbecue area... I hope that we can get it all done for the end of the year.

Just realised why doing the windows has dragged, I may have only done two windows but that is 36 pains of glass that have been replaced and that sounds like a lot of glass, 36 pains of glass (around 12 new pains and 3.5Kg of putty)


One other accomplishment is that the test gray water recovery system is now operating - OK that is a few meters of plastic pipe, some guttering and a 500 liter tank. The plan is to use this to test out different filter materials. So far sand was a complete failure as it completely congealed and would not let the water through. Currently we are using 3 sizes of gravel - this seems to work OK But is starting to clog up as well.



We need to gray water system to be in before the bathroom is done so that it can be connected to it.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Things are getting on top of me

Every morning I wake up and no mater what I got done the day before seem to be faced with a list of things to do that is a mile long.... There are times when my head spins just trying to work out what to do next.

Have got one set of windows primed and all the glass put back in. I have done windows before, both in the UK and America (USA), but here the putty (when you can get it) seems to not want to stay put. The window I did two days ago has putty running down the frames.... It seems to take about a week for it to set.. I am not sure if it is just the wrong sort of Putty or due to the weather. Mind you most people use bathroom sealant to put windows in. The only problem with that was that most of the pains that had been put in with sealant have fallen out.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Ouch! 2

Having written about my little fall a few days ago I now have another little accident to write about. The other day as Helen was cleaning the old sealant from the windows with a knife she slipped and managed to cut halfway through her index finger. So as I didn't think the bleeding was going to stop with out any help we got into the car top go off to the hospital, As we were about to leave one of the old ladies who lives further up the road was coming up and having seen Helen's finger suggested that we should go to the emergency department in Los Sauces which was a lot closer than the main hospital. So in the car we drove off and arriving at the health center rang the bell and with in 30 Seconds we were in the hospital and Helen was being dealt with. Luckily there wasn't much damage and once the cut was stuck together with steri strips and dosed with iodine we were able to go with instructions to return tomorrow morning. When we did return the following morning I was amazed to see the same staff. They examined Helen's finger and redressed it. Helen has now completed re glazing the window, having stripped it completely and re coated the wood with a waterproofing coating

Friday, May 25, 2007

Permission Required

Over the last couple of weeks as we have been working on the steps we have had several people who live nearby popping up and saying that we shouldn't be doing what we were with the steps and that we should speak to the council. So today with help from our friend sheila we did. And yes we should have spoken to them as it is effectively a public right of way. But the council have no problem with what we are doing but we just need the correct permit. So I have filled in the correct forms and supplied the relevant documentation and we should have the required license to do the work in about 3 weeks. On the other front we have confirmed that in order to do the bathroom and terrace we need to have an architect sign off the plans.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Ouch!!

Yesterday I had a little bit of an accident. I was running back up to the car to get the keys and as I put my foot on the edge of the concret ramp that the car is parked on I realised that I had over reached myself and that I had no other way to go but down HARD!. So That's where I ended up sprawled on the step with a very bad pain in my right knee. Thankfully I haven't done a lot on damage but I am going to be stiff for a while.

Where I fell

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

On the high seas

Well today I have recived an email saying that our container has now been shipped and is on its way to Tenerife. I have a date of 25th May when it is due to arrive in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Once it has arrived there it will take a while for it to be unloaded and clear customs. Once that has happened it then needs to be loaded on to a van and driven on to the ferry and over here.

It's a slow day here cold and raining on and off so I'm sitting here in front of the computer sorting out paperwork. I went out yesterday and brought a printer so I can now sort out letters and print them with out having to drive half way round the island.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Another week

Another week gone by and more steps layed. Not much else done this week, a lot of time spent between here and Santa Cruz, The Van is now imported but before it can be registered it has to be inspected at the ITV (not the television channel) and guess what, they have gone on strike.... so now we are stuck.

We also went to see a FREE concert by a local band Taburiente, it was in the open are, the only place you could see a good concert and watch the stars.. Not a bad night.

All in all a slow week.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Sick but not out

I have been rather sick the last few days - a flu bug or some thing else - lot of pain in my kidneys and / or liver.. But it seems to have gone now.
Today was a good day.. Let's see what we have done.
  1. Shuttering for first of the cast concrete steps 95% done
  2. Satellite dish guy ropes done and mounting pole securing improved (its been very windy today, gusting to 53 Km/h).
  3. Scanned all the current known Transponder Frequencies for Astra 2A and 2B. The result of this is that we now have all National BBC radio channels and BBC London.
  4. Replaced the cheep solar power regulator with a new one now should be a lot better (I hope) and this one is 15A instead of the old 4A one.
  5. Theresa got the 12v socket in the bedroom so now we run the satellite receiver off the solar power.
Well it was a good day and now for dinner, sausages spuds and peas, yum yum.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Onions & Carrots

This morning we decided that we needed to do some more work on the vegetable patch. We had dug an area over a week or so ago and planted some lettuce plants in but we had to dig some more as our friend Sheila had got us a whole load of onion plants that needed to go in the ground pretty quickly. So we dug two patches over either side of where we had planted the lettuce and pulled out all the weeds and started to plant the onions. We planted the onions in alternate rows and interspersed them with rows of carrots. The idea behind this is that having the two plants growing side by side will confuse the bugs and pests. The green bush you can see amongst the onions and carrots and lettuce is a thyme bush.


Our vegtable patch


Helen in happy mood

On other fronts we have sorted out where we need to put all the electrical sockets and switches and I will start putting it all in over the next few weeks. The steps are moving forward with the lower step now just requiring a final top coat of concrete to complete. The van import is moving slowly but should be sorted soon. We have some more furniture turning up tomorrow, one item is a new mattress as the current one we are using is not very comfortable at all hopefully with the new one we will sleep better. I also have a desk and office chair turning up.

Friday, April 27, 2007

A walk on the wild side

Due to feeling a bit down (well to be honest I for one have been feeling very down for the last few days) we decided to have a day off from work or thinking about work on the house. As we live next to one of the Island walking routes, we felt that it was time that we try the walk out. Now this walk is one of the original donkey tracks connecting the villages on the island, it runs down the ridge (lomo) that we live on and then down in to the branco between Franceses and Gallegos. it is about 2Km from our house to the bottom of the branco and drops around 600m. It took us around 1 hour to get down to the bottom of the branco via some fantastic views. at one point the path arrives at the edge of a cliff over looking the sea some 400M high.
One goal of the work was to see if we could get to the sea unfortunately we could not, we managed to get within 50m of it but due to a 6 or 7M drop in the river bead we could not get any closer.
The walk back up nearly killed us both...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

20 20 vision

The only 20 20 vision we have is hindsight and at the moment that is rather depressing.
Yesterday we finally got an Internet connection, we can not get a phone line at the moment and if we could it would not support ADSL. The local town hall provide a wifi Internet service based on line of sight systems and ofcorce we don't have line of sight to the local transmitter.. (mind you we have not inquired about it). So we decided to go with a 3G USB modem, but the one we got will not do Internet sharing (explicitly stops it) also it appears we don't have a 3G signal at this end of the island. If only we have asked more questions or more to the point not rushed getting the system we may have got something that would work better but we are now stuck with what we have. It will do for now though.
Looking back we did not plan the move out here very well, we brought with us lots of things that we are not going to use for many months and have shipped things that we need now. Also due to over loading the van we lost things that we now need. I do wonder if Driving down was the best solution, as we have to import the van and that is tending to be more of a problem that we thought.
The thing with hindsight is that it is perfect. but we don't have a time machine to go back and change the things we have done wrong so we have to cope with the mistakes and try not to make more. One bit of advice to others thinking of doing something like this - take some time and get the plans right and ask the right questions..

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Fun With Satilites

As Theresa said in an earlier post, we now have a limited satellite system, limited as all we can pick up is a few channels - mostly Sky news and the BBCi streams, but the idea was so that we could listen to Radio 2 which we can receive so it seems to be for filing its purpose...
Having never used a satellite before we first thought that the system was not working as we could not receive a thing.. it was only after many hours and getting a second LNB (as I thought that I have damaged the first one) that I found that the pointing of the dish is very sensitive.
The first night we have a simple system with the dish (a 1m thing that Theresa has christened Jodrel bank junior) siting on two breeze blocks. This worked OK except that the dish kept blowing over. Now it is mounted on the pole that holds the washing line up, better but as the pole is not fixed that well the dish can rotate a bit so it is OK for one Astra satellite but not that good for the other one... which is why we have limited stations.

But having access to Radio 2 has helped a lot to over come some of the feelings of isolation we were having.. Some would say why come to La Palma and then cry out for British Radio.. Well two reasons; firstly our Spanish is not that good so it is very difficult to listen to Spanish radio (and TV) and secondly, the Spanish Radio station we like is not available at our end of the island. The only radio that we can receive does not have a strong signal and keeps fading out or being swamped by Portuguese radio from Madeira.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Where does the postman call

Two days a go I put up a post box, on the understanding that the postman comes up the pista (steep road) that our house is on. But then some one stopped to talk to us as we walked along the road it would appear that he was the local postman (or one of them) no uniform and no official transport (just a clapped out car). he does not go up the pista so the box was no good outside the house - we could not quite workout if the box should be placed at the bottom by the half oil drum or that the half oil drum was the post box... So now I have taken the box down and we don't now what to do, collect the mail from the oil drum, though I think others may pick it up and distribute it as they go up the hill, or put up our box (or a bigger one) at the bottom of the hill. We will have to wait and see on that one...

More work done on the steps this morning, ok some of the drains are in and a few more rocks have been put on other rocks, the main thing that helped was, as we now have power I could used the cement mixer so mixing the stuff was not so bad but I still have to lug it up to the steps.. Also the old cement mixer is a bit on the decrepit side, it works ok but you have to unplug it to turn it off as the switch does not seem to work at all. The mixer also seems to be firmly fixed in its current location, behind a nice lily...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Lord Said let there be light.....

Today was a monumental day for us. We were a Sheila's this morning after we had been to town to drop some more paperwork off at the customs agent who is dealing with the car import. while we were there we received a phone call from the engineer who was coming to the house to fit our meter. So Sheila gave him directions to find our place. After lunch at Sheila's we did a little shopping and headed home a low and behold there on the outside of our house was a brand new electric meter. So after a quick check we switched on the circuit breakers and confirmed, YES we have electricity!!!!!!!!!!

After one short false start where I had not quite wired one socket correctly (OK the wire was hanging out) we confirmed that all the wiring I had done was OK and we now have one mains powered light and a couple of sockets. It's not much but it does mean we can now have a fridge which will make a large difference to the shopping.

On another front Helen has managed to get the satellite up and running so we now have Radio2 playing in the back ground as I am writing this.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Paperwork and other items

This morning we went to the customs office to start the process of importing the car over to Spanish plates. However as we were going through the paperwork we got to a certain point where it appears as we brought the car less than six months before we brought it into the country we couldn't do it directly through the customs office but instead would have to go via a customs agent. So we trailed across to the harbour where one of the agents is, A few bits of paperwork later and things are staring to move. I need to get a few documents, and it may cost us a little more but it is in progress.

On the other front we have also spoken to the electric company and opened our account, now all we have to do is wait for the phone call to tell us when they are going to connect us.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Work continues

More work on the steps completed today, I am not sure if my rock wall building is of local standards but I hope that it will stay up. I started to mark out the bottom part of the step that needs to be brought up to the level of the current entrance way. The plan is to have it as a curve from the gate. This is a bit hit and miss at the moment as I am making the design up as I go along.. partly due to the start of a wall that had been placed there by Manolar.

Theresa got the 12 lights in our bedroom wired up to the main battery today, putting the junction box in the wall for the 12v lighting was a bit of a mess as rubble stone walls are quite hard to channel out.
The wall before we started hacking about
You have to dig out several stones (hoping that the wall does not fall down) and then replace them with lashings of concrete.
And here you have me trying to fill in the new hole
Probably not the best way as these walls are damp in the center, and should be allowed to breath. we will need to put the wiring in the box in a few days once the cement has set. Also need to repair the hole in the floor.

I also put a coat of paint on the walls in the loo / shower, needs another coat and in a few places the white wash scrubbing off the walls but it has made a difference.
We are at Sheila's tomorrow - another try to get the electric on...

Sunday, April 01, 2007

When The neighbours come calling

What a start to April, at 2:30 this morning one of the neighbours, slightly worse for drink, came calling (well hammering on the door was more like it). At first I thought that he was worried due to the smell of smoke coming from the house after the problems we had had with the cooking fire last night. But No he was asking if we have got the electric on yet. Well that is what we think he was after But at 2:30 in the morning!!!! we managed to get rid of him after a bout 10 to 20 minutes and then tried to get back to sleep. The hole thing had quite shaken both of us.

We were due to go to Sheilas in the morning and could not get out of the house quick enough this morning. I just hope that this was a one off occurrence, because I feel a hole lot more like just going back to the UK today and I think that Theresa does a bit as well.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Power from the Sun, and too much smoke

A lot done today, Solar panel is up, its a bit of a Heath Robinson affair but seems to function well, I am not sure of the state of the battery that we have borrowed from Carlos but it seems to be holding up well. We have to carry the battery down from the roof each morning and back up in the evening but we can now charge it here
We also set up the weather station, no connection to a computer at the moment - that will have to wait until we have mains power (our little 60W panel works well but does not do wonders).

We had one minor problem tonight, cooking dinner on the fire ended up filling the house with smoke. It seems that cooking on an open cooking fire is not as simple as it seems. ( first we could not get it started now when it is going it fills the place with smoke. Have we done the right this in coming here? In a way I want to go home...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

We have arived, mostly

Well we are here - for better or worse.
The trip down was rather fought with problems.
first we were stopped by the French Police for being over loaded. 13% in fact, around 300Kg. The result of this was that we had to pay a fine of 150 Eros. and to stop us getting stopped a gain we decided (or should I say I decided) that we had to lighten our load. We had thought that we could possibly hire a car and then move some of the load to the other car (well 100Kg would move just having one driver in each car).. But we decided that that was not a good option as most of the time we would be apart. So ther result was that we dumped quite a bit of stuff - most of the heavy bits, two UPSes one 75A/h battery and other assorted heavy bits. The van handled a lot better afterworlds but some of the stuff that was dumped will never be replaced.

The rest of the trip we were very nervous and on edge incase we were stopped again. This also messed up the Berther cam as I did not feel happy about running the cam with the police there...

We came over the pernees in a blizzard... it looks very pretty when we could see but most of the time all we could see was white all around and the back of the truck in frunt of us.

The next thing that went wrong was that the ferry was 11 hours late, the result of that was that we missed the connecting ferry and had to stay two nights in Tenerife...

We did manage to pick up Tabby ok.. but the ferry trip was not that enjoyerble for her, she was sick and messed her box so we had to clean it out which ment that although I was not feeling too sea sick at the start, atfter that I was.

We arived in La Palma at 10:30 feeling a bit off and very tired and frased. Sheila meet usjust out side the port and haded over the keys, she has very kindly made the bed and got some food in for us. The last 45Km of the trip were done in darkness and we arived at our new home at arond 11:30, but our trubles with Berther were not over, She was still too over loaded and would not go up the pester (steep road) to our home so we parked her on the road at the bottom and went o bed..

This morning we had to carry half the load out of Berther up to the house, befor we could get her up the pester, unloading took around 2 hours and a lot of energy. The rest of the day had been tken up with getting bits we need.

The fun this evning was trying to get the fire alight so that we could cook our dinner. The problem was that we did not have much kinding and mst of the wood was damp. But with the help of a air pump for the matrice we got it going, some time resbling a small blast fernice. Just the batries in the air pump were giving out (and our pashence) the fire desided to catch and we did have supper.

Also managed to get the 12v lights up today, runnig off of a car battry borowed from Calos.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Long and Winding Road

As I sit here in a hotel room in Sevilla, I'm thinking back over what has been a very eventful and stressful 5 days. Last Sunday we left our house in London and headed out on the road. Since we left the UK on the Monday morning we been pulled over and fined by the gendarme, Driven over mountain passes in snow blizzards. Crossed several international boarders. Looking back on it now it has been a lot more of a challenge than I had originally thought, and I have made several mistakes along the way the biggest was overloading the car in the first place. This lead to the first of our problems, We had made a quick coffee stop, and as we were leaving the service area we were pulled over by a couple of Gendarme. After looking in the back and seeing that we were full to the top they took up to a weighbridge and then back to there office. At the office they told us we were 300Kg overloaded and that this would be a 135euro fine. We were allowed to continue but later that night we pulled over by a bin and unloaded a number of the heaver items we had in the back of the van. I'm a little annoyed at myself for having to do this as in hindsight we should have shipped more than we did, but were are now down to a more acceptable weight(I think). Ever since then I have had fits of apoplexy every time I see a police car or a police officer, I am so worried about being pulled over again and still being over weight, But if we do at this point we can just post stuff to home.


Driving across the mountains in Spain was an experience some times we were driving through complete whiteout conditions, for a while we were following the snow plough up the mountain pass. Several times we came to a compete halt for periods of around 30min, other times we were squeezing by with one wheel on the road and the other on snow. Once the snow had passed and we started to come down on to the plains the scenery started to change to a more familiar Spanish style.

I am a little worried about the drive tomorrow as we have to drive to Cadiz to catch the ferry over to Santa Cruz de Tenerife, but the motorcycle Grand Prix is on this weekend at Jerez which is just north of there and there is likely to be large queues on the auto route and a large number of Guardia Civil patrols.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Road Trip Has Started

Well we made it.... This last week has been hell, Why is it that we ALWAYS get the timing wrong! We had just under two weeks to get sorted out, and we could have done with another week, and a bigger van!
Yesterday we tried to pack the van, and ended up with more stuff that space in the van... So we got up at 6:30 this morning and did it again, but left some non essentials out - like our TV... DVD recorder and still the van is packed solid, most of it packed very well apart from one bag of tea which keeps slipping out and hitting me on the head.
I will admit that it has been a very trying last few days and I have honestly contemplated not going, even this morning after we realised that we still had too much stuff to go into the van, if I had knife to hand I would not have left.
But here we are, 10:00 pm in the Travel inn Folkestone, two hours on the road behind us and no problems (and 8 days ahead of us). Tomorrow we leave England on the 10:50am EuroTunnel service, and then the real adventure begins.
To Any of our Friends that we did not get a Chance to say goodbye to, we are sorry but this last week has been too hectic, there is an open invitation to come out and see us, but could you hold off for just a bit so that we can get the Bathroom built.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Oh Arrrrr

We Are Now Officially Farmers..

Yes, we finally signed all the paperwork for the house sale on Friday at 2:15 pm, it ended up being a bit rushed as the notary closed at 2:00 pm and they wanted to go home.... It was a bit of a letdown and we got nothing in return for all the money we handed over, although the house and land was now ours.

As to the farmers bit, today we went to the house to have a celebrational barbecue, original it was just going to be us, Sheila and a friend or two. But as the current owners were still moving out and can only do that on Sundays (they don't live there normally just use it as a bodega on the weekends) we had a very pleasant afternoon with them as well. The guy that we bought the place off of informed us that as we owned the house and land we were now members of the irrigation committee i.e officially classed as farmers ..... and it seems that farmers and local people seem to be a dieing breed at the moment. The two houses next to ours are empty and possibly up for sale so we are not over looked at the moment...

Well although the place is more of a building site than a house, it is our building site.. and we are carrying on a good local tradition. The guys farther built the first one room house on the land in the 1950's and then went to Venezuela to work and earn money to pay for the place, his wife was left with one son (the seller) of about 7 and a sick 2 year old, a pig , a cow and some goats. She then built the kitchen and another room on to the house. While collecting water from a spring and fire wood and bedding each day.

This house has some very interesting history and I hope that we don't destroy it...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

It's Fiesta Time

No we have not signed for the house but its carnival so everything is shut.
If all goes well we should be signing the end of this week .. If all the parties can get together. In the mean time I have been putting the floor plan of the house into Autocad and doing some rough designs for the kitchen and bathroom.
Current Layout of the House

The dimensions were taken from a photo of a drawing the seller did. I am not quite sure that they are completely correct.
Bed Room 1 is mostly done - just a coat of paint on the walls and ceiling and the windows. The wooden floor needs sanding and vanishing but compared to the rest of the house it is virtually done.
The Dinning Hall (named as it is both a hall between all the rooms and the dinning room) needs quite bit done to it including rendering the walls and possibly the ceiling and quite a few other bits.

The second Bed Room (Temporary office) and living room need a few things done but I can not remember much of there state at the moment.

As to the kitchen and new Bathroom, the current plan is to covert the water tank into the bathroom and remodel the kitchen as shown below:

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Ya ha llegado mi dinero?

Well things on the house front are moving... Slowly.

But we do have some good news. The documents are with the notary who is now preparing the sale contract. The only slight snag is that the house is owned by 3 people as it was left to them as an inheritance, so there is the issue of how the proceeds are split. But this will only delay things a week as we just need to get everybody together at the same time to sign.

The other good news is that we now have access to the Spanish bank over the Internet, after much swearing and cursing, and discovering that it doesn't work in Firefox. This has also meant we are now able to confirm that the money has arrived from the UK and is happily sitting in our account.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Numero de Identidad de Extranjeros

Today we went into town to collect our Numero de Identidad de Extranjeros or N.I.E as it is know. This is your Spanish identity number. You need this number to open a bank account, buy a house or car, to work and pay socal security. So as you can see getting this number is a big thing. To get this number you have to go to a Extranjeros department at a national police station with your passport and a completed form (Plus Copies), then if you are lucky about 7 to 10 days later you can go and collect your number. So having picked the number up we went off to the bank to open account. So we now have a bank account and with any luck the money should be on it's way from the UK.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

At Last ..... A House

Or is it a building site?

Well we could not afford much and the first place we looked at has gone up from 79,000 to 103,000. This place was not on our list as the web advert was not correct when we were drawing up the list , but after our second chose in Franceses was sold and the 3rd place was soooooo small we had a look at this one..
The house is a square concrete (and probably rubble) block with windows... Built in to the side of a hill (Like most places on La Palma). The entrance to the place is at the rear from a concrete road, with a parking space (which is higher than the roof).
All the living space is on the top floor with two small storage rooms below.
The living space consists of 3 rooms and a large hallway that doubles as a dining room ( or is that a small dining room that doubles as a hallway).
The Kitchen is almost from the last century (though I don't think the house is that old) and one of the features that Theresa (and I ) like, as it has an open fire come barbecue to cook over. It looks like the kitchen was a later addition to the house but did not have direct access to the rest of the place. So one seems to have been made! But is in need of finishing.
It looks like you enter the kitchen via a tunnel... We are thinking of a nice arched opening here... I like arches!

There is one room that is mostly finished and looks very nice, basic but nice. It's the main bedroom so at least we can sleep in some comfort.
The rest of the rooms need some work - from fixing the rendering between the beams to rendering the walls and putting down floor tiles.
Why buy the place I here you say? well at €62,000 around £40,000 its cheep and well within our budget. Also it has some land (around 1150 to 1500 M2 depending on who you talk to) divided up into terraces which will be adequate for our needs. But mainly, although you may think us mad, we like the place.

Some of the vines on the land


A view of the entrance


Where it is on La Plama
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