Friday, December 26, 2008


Yesterday as I was helping our friend Sheila cook Christmas dinner a wasp flew down and somehow got caught between my face and my glasses and as a consequence I got stung quite badly. This morning my eye has swollen up and hurts like mad.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A White Christmas

Well just in case you miss it I can confirm that here in the Canaries we do have a white christmas Ok it's only above 2,500 meters but as you can see there is snow on the mountain top. All we got at our level of 500m was a lot of rain and a thunder storm which took the power out for a short while. Now this morning the sun is out as the sky is blue with just a few clouds out to sea.Snow at the Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory on Xmas Day from the webcam on the Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope (JKT)
The view from the window here with clouds out to sea

Merry Xmas

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas

Just a quick note to all our Blog readers


The Observatory Dome is Built

OK so it's only 20cm diameter and made of cardboard. But it is a prototype. me and Helen made this dome yesterday afternoon to prove if the concept of making a geodesic dome from plywood sheets would work. As you can see the final result looks dome like, it is fairly ridged apart from round the lower edge but then it is held together with scotch tape. The full sized one will also have a solid band around the bottom to support it and keep it round.
If you look on the inside you can see that it is made up of a number of triangles joined together in either hexagons or pentagons the gaps between each will not be as noticeable on the final thing as the measurements will be easier to get exact due to the fact that we will be dealing with something 10 times bigger.

The next thing to do on the model is to coat it with some papermache and then once dried I will then be able to cut the hole in it for the dome opening. In the full scale version it will have a coat of fibreglass for waterproofing. Once I have used this scale model to sort out some of the idea's I would like to be able to make a start on planning to build the observatory next year.

Review 2008

Well as the end of the year draws near it's time to review what progress has been made over the last year, and also what has gone wrong.

In January we finally finished decorating the front room which we are calling the library, and the permission came through from the town hall to enable us to put a roof on the old water tank which we are going to turn into a bathroom. Then in February we got the builders in and in 3 days they had the roof on and finished. Meanwhile we got started on the dining room inside which up to this point has just been bear concrete walls. On the outside the mild weather meant that we could finish the steps and ramp down the side of the house. March saw a trip back to the UK to see Helen's grandson Theo. This trip was not as relaxing as I would have liked due to flight delays and missing bags. Also in March we had a scare as Helen fell from one terrace to another requiring a trip to the hospital for an x-ray on suspected broken ribs. Luckily she was OK just badly bruised. April saw work on the area for the water tanks as part of the preparation for the permanent drainage systems.

In May the doorway was converted into a window and the plastering of the walls and ceiling in the dinning room continued. Then in June the first part of the drains went in and the dinning room got painted and woodwork varnished. Then in July the miracle happened we finally got indoor plumbing and the tiles went down in the dining room. Which soon lead in August after a trip to Tenerife to the temporary kitchen going in and finally after 18 months I had a gas cooker with more than 2 rings and sink where the water went somewhere when you pulled the plug out this now means that work can start on the old kitchen which needs the old work tops demolishing and the drainage putting in and also the drainage for the bathroom needs to run through there. Since then it has been crazy I have gone from last year of only having 1 hour of teaching outside of school to having to turn people away as I don't have any more time to give classes. It has not been helped by having a bad head cold which refuses to go away, November and December have also been very cold and damp which has not made things easier. But at the moment the sun is shining.

Recently we have been demolishing the old kitchen. which included a large concrete chimney over what was the old fireplace. Hitting this with a large hammer enabled Helen to get rid of some of her frustrations. All that is left is a very thick concrete beam which goes form wall to wall and will have to be gut out with the angle grinder.

The only bad thing of real note is the continued problems with the car. We have had to have the clutch cable replaced, the ventilation fan is on the blink and I have just been given a price of nearly 400€ to replace it. Without the fan you get a smell of petrol into the car so it has to be replaced soon. The car still has wear on the front tires due to the corners here. And to top it all she still has the intermittent problem where she over revs at idle and despite us cleaning everything it is still happening so I will have to take the car into the workshop early next year and see if they can sort it out.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Catching Up

The last few weeks have been quite, both me and Helen have been ill at one point or another. Despite this, things are progressing on the house at a slow pace, this is mainly due to the fact that we cannot buy any new materials until we have built up a bit more of a cash reserve. Over the summer the job at the schools ends and I don't get paid for July and August which makes life difficult for a couple of months, and last year I didn't have that many after school classed. How things are different this year, I now have at least 2 hours of English classes every afternoon except on Monday and weekends. These don't pay that well for individual classes but some of them are groups which means that the amount per hour can get quite interesting.
We have been able to do a little work on the house and we have built a set of steps going up from the terrace where the house is to the next level up which will make accessing and maintaining that terrace easier, as the existing access was a breeze block balanced half way up a slope which meant that getting any of the gardening tools such as the petrol strimmer up there could be interesting.

We have gotten most of the crops in ready for winter this year, winter being the wettest part of the year is the main growing season over here and the temperature very rarely gets below double figures, so you don't have to worry about frost. So far we have cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, carrots, swede, turnips out in the fields and soon potatoes and onions should be on their way once I have brought the seed potatoes.

Helen has just got back from El Hierro where she had been staying with our friend Norma. Norma made a mistake last week and managed to miss the only direct ferry from La Palma back to El Hierro, So she flew back on the Monday leaving her car behind and Helen drove her car over on the ferry the following Sunday and then Helen flew back this Tuesday.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Death and Taxes

Well the saying goes that there are only two things in life that are certain death and taxes. As I write this I am dying in bed with a bad head cold which has kept me off school for the last two days. And so on to the taxes. This morning we went down to the town hall to pay our annual taxes for the house, rubbish, water and car tax. Yes you don't get the bill sent to to all that happens is a not gets posted on a notice board in town and if you happen to notice it and read it is says that it is now time to go down and see them and pay up. We went there and paid up, House Tax: €20.43, Rubbish Collection: €38, Car tax: €51.72, Water € 14.41. OK we have to pay the water twice a year but as you can see the prices are no where as near as bad as they are in the UK, which is a good thing as we don't have the money at the moment.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Clutching at straws

Oh Blog posts are like buses wait a while then 3 come along at once. Just a quick note to say that Bertha was in the workshop again this week having a new clutch cable fitted. For the last few weeks it had been getting slowly worse, every time you put your foot on the clutch the pedal would go to the floor and nothing else would happen, sometimes you could flip it up and it would work again but not always. It is so nice now that it is working again

We Plow the Fields

But we haven´t got round to scattering yet.

Yes it´s that time of year again when the rotavator gets it´s annual outing. During the summer not a lot grows here, in fact there is very little or no rain from April through to September. But once September arrives down comes the rain and everything starts to grow. So Finally to day we got round to digging over two of the plots on our land. We got the first one done before the rotavator started to play-up so off up to the workshop under the house where we took the thing apart and managed to get it going again to finish the other patch. We should be planting some cabbages, turnips, carrots & swedes this weekend.

A disappointment

Well some weeks ago I hinted that something might be going on. Well it isn´t. So what was going on I hear you ask? Well about a month ago I had a job interview over in Tenerife for one of the Telescopes up the mountain here. On Wednesday I finally after a month of waiting I got any email telling me that I didn´t get the job. But I still have the teaching and this year I do have a number of private classes which helps to bring in some money

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Back to School

After a few quite weeks, I have gone back to work at the school.

It's the second week of school and we have only just started the English classes. Things are chaotic as we don't have a proper timetable yet, this is very typical for September. Working at the school is OK but I do find it very tiring, I do have something else going on but I am going to keep quite for now until I know for certain.

On the home front things have been at a standstill as we don't have a lot of money to do things. We have built a small area to work on plants and seeds before they are planted out.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Trip to Tenerife

Living on a small island can have it's problems. One of them is that some times you can develop what they call island fever. The only cure is to GET OFF THE ISLAND!!!!

So that is what we did. We went to Tenerife for a long weekend. We caught the ferry a 4am on Thursday morning, this meant being at the port at 3am to check-in, leaving our house at 2am to drive to the port, which entailed getting up at 1am. So by the time we got on the ferry we had been up for 4 hours and we ready to have a kip. The journey over wasn't to bad, just find a seat a curl up and try to sleep. the ferry takes 4hours to get to Los Chritanos in Tenerife with a 1/2hour stopover in La Gomera to load and unload passengers.

Once we got to Tenerife, a quick coffee and a sandwich and we were on the road to the north of the island and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, where we hit the shops. Why come all this way to go shopping ,well with Tenerife being a bigger island and with a larger British population there are more shopping opertunities than in La Palma, there is even a small Marks & Spencers.

After spending the morning shopping it was off to Ikea and then to our hotel in Puerto de La Cruz. We were staying in the Hotel Acuario, which is on the hill just up from the center of Puerto de la Cruz. The Room was small but clean and functional. Where the hotel did excel was in the food, for a 2 star hotel with a buffet breakfast and evening meal, the food was always, hot and not dried out to much. On the Saturday night they had a selection of typical canarian foods and the Rabbit in salmoreno ( Red pepper and onion sauce) was fantastic.

Coming home was interesting we got to the port in good time so that we were more or less the first in the queue for the ferry. So we went into the terminal to get a coffee and sit an watch the ships come in an out. I was about quarter of an hour before our ferry and it hadn't arrived so we wandered down to the car, we were just about to get into the car when there was a garbled announcement on the tannoy and everybody came running out and getting into the cars and driving off, I at first though that people had queued in the wrong place (there are two different ferry companies), but it turned out that our ferry had broken down and that we were all being loaded on the rival ferry which was being diverted to La Palma. So we finally got on having had on of the guys who was directing traffic winding me up by looking at my ticket and saying "oh no you've got to go back over there" before smiling, just as I was about to get uppity, and point for us to go down the priority boarding lane. As it happened this ferry is faster that the one we should have got so we ended up home an hour earlier than we should have been.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Cooking On Gas

Well finally after 18 Months I have a cooker..

We have been running on to small camping stoves since we arrived, now this is OK for you basic Meat and two Veg as I can do the meat on the barbecue and the veg on the camping stoves, But if you want a sauce to go on the meat well that's a different matter. So now having four reasonable burners available is great. OK they run off a gas cylinder that is under the worktop for now (it will go outside once we have built the proper kitchen). The funny thing is the first time I decided to use the cooker properly it ran out of gas so I had to go back to using the camping cookers again!!!!! But I was able to go and exchange the gas bottle at our local village store (which isn't officially open at present as the is a problem with the license), I was a little worried about doing this as I hadn't had to handle this before, the was the system works out here is that you have to jump through all sorts of hoops in order to get your first gas bottle, then you can just exchange the empty for a full one after that. I was worried that I would not be able to get a new bottle, but as it happened there was absolutely no problem in exchanging it. So I now have a full bottle and it will be interesting to see how long it will last, as we only use for cooking.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Everything including the kitchen sink

After 18 months we finally have a kitchen sink! Yes one with taps both in hot and cold and a drain connection.
This may not sound much but our old sink had only a cold tap and if you emptied things down the drain you would end up with wet feet. As well a sink we also have a set of worktops which doubles the amount of space available for cooking. It was very hard to cook in our old kitchen as the work surfaces were about the size of a postage stamp. The outflow from the sink goes directly into the grey water tank which is behind the bathroom in the garden. Along with a plumbed-in sink the washing machine has also been fitted. If you remember before I had to drag the machine across the floor drag a pipe in from the garden and then I could do nothing else while the washing was running. Now it is so easy to just trow the washing in to the machine and forget about it.
At the moment this kitchen has been built temporarily in what will be the dining hall once all the work is finished. We have built a wall of plastic sheeting between the dining hall and the old kitchen so that we can knock the old kitchen to pieces with out filling the rest of the house fully of dust and muck.
Hopefully early next week we should be able to fit the gas hob, at the moment we have been coping with two little camping stoves. So finally having 4 full gas burners fed from a big gas bottle (No mains gas here) should make things a lot easier. Helen has just been taking it easy for a few days, as she pushed quite hard to get the kitchen done and just needs a little rest.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Week on the Tiles

Although the work on the house is progressing, I will not say that things have been going that well, I seem to be getting more and more uptight and grumpy, a day really goes by without me snapping at Theresa. After a rather tiring week of work finishing with a very late night grouting, the dining room was ready to become a temporary kitchen. Then a day of intense cleaning, to rid the house of construction dust and another day to move the fridge and washing machine in to the newly finished room and put up a false wall to stop dust from the work on the new kitchen and things are looking good.While doing the tiling I thought it would be good to fix the few tiles that had fallen off of the wall in the loo/shower, there were only about 8 or 10 tiles to put up and we had some spare tiles in the under croft (original 1950 or 60 tiles in a wooden crate). So I started removing the old tile cement so that the replacement ones would be at the same level that current ones are. removing the old cement was not to hard as it was quite loose but then the old tiles were not that well attached to the wall ether and stared fulling off.... in the end I hand to put around 30 tiles back on instead of around 10.
The other job that we have managed to get done is to finally have a proper path and steps to the loo so after a year we can now go to the loo without risking a broken ankle.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Inside Plumbing

Finlay Hot water in the house - pity there is no tap yet...
The first stage of the pluming for the temp kitchen is done and so is all the painting and the varnishing of the doors (still have to put the bedroom door on its hinges).
OK the pluming is not much only a few meters of pipe (cast iron, old but it works) And we can plumb the washing machine in.. no more moving it around and connecting it to a long pipe that dumps water in the garden..I will just be glad when we can get rid of the lopsided hot water tank - but that will not be for a while.
The only thing left to do now is put the tiles down and then the dinning room is ready to become a temporary kitchen. How long it will be before the real kitchen is ready will depend on when we get some more money in as our building reserves are now just about run out, but we will have what we need to get on with things and see if we can make a living out here. That is going to be the real test is it not... Mind you we still will move slowly on some things, like knocking the old kitchen about, removing the concrete kitchen units and fire place (shame about that but its is just too big and low).
As to how we are feeling, well things are OK but we are a bit touchy at the moment, I have so many things I want to do and as usual Just cannot seem to get any of them done. As I have never lived in another country for more than two years I am a little worried that it will be the same this time. We will just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

1st Helresa Star Party

A while ago a friend of ours moved from the capital of the island Santa Cruz over to the other side of the island, they moved into a small place just outside puntagorda. She had moved there to escape the noise, she is a singer/songwriter and it was hard for her to record in town.
Having moved over there she commented on how many stars there were in the sky and suggested that we bring over the telescope one time so she could take a look.

So last weekend that is what we did, just like the old days we packed our tent and telescopes into the car and headed off. We got there mid afternoon, having had to make a short detour after getting so far along the road only to be told that there was a rally on and we would have to turn back.

Why the F*** didn't it say that at the junction you ..........

I thought to my self as I turned round.

So as I was saying once we got there we started to put up the tent in the blistering heat. Once the tent was up it was time to sit down a have a cup of tea. Our other friend Sheila was there with her son to enjoy the stars. We had a barbecue tea and settled down to watch the clouds roll in. So there we sat outside drinking red wine and chatting Until at last the clouds parted.

Telescope and Palm Trees at Dusk
There was just enough time for me to swear at my computer as I tried to get it to talk to the telescope, as Helen went old school and manually pointed my old trusty ETX90 at Jupiter. Before the clouds rolled in again and we packed up for the night.

The second night was a little better but not by much, The cloud rolled in again but we did manage to get a good look at the Moon and Saturn before we clouded out again.

The Moon, Saturn, Mars and Regulus
Next year at our house with the scope mounted in it permanent location I hope. More on that in the next week or so I hope

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

21st Centry arives in Franceses

After a year of trying to cope with an Internet connection that ran at 56 Kb (just like the old dial-up modems), we now have 3 G and at last have something that is usable..
There was no announcement I just logged on one morning and there it was. Now all we have to do is sort out how to connect several systems through one connection that gets re-created each time you connect, so you have to share it a new each time.... We may look at another company if we can not get something that works better.. But it is OK for now.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Look Drains!

Work moves forward... On the outside the gray water tank is now in its correct place and yes it has pipes to the house and to the fields (but not the final irrigation connections). We have a wast water connection to the tank now in the dinning room for the temporary kitchen sink, also the main drain connection to the pozo negro has moved closer to the house.
the old location of the gray water tank is now being converted to a small location for potting seeds etc, and concrete paths are being added from the house to the outside loo etc. we hope to have a small formal herb garden created in front of the dining room with a patio, once all the drains are in.
On the Inside work on the dinning room moves slowly forward, most of the wood work has been striped and the first coat of vanish should be on the front doors today (once I have done this blog and got dressed) I would like to get all the wood work done this week so that the painting can be done over the weekend. As the room will be used as a kitchen for a while we are only going to use white paint for now but that should seal the walls. It will have to be redone once the final kitchen is done. To finish all the wood work I need to make some trimming around the door into our bedroom and will try to use some of the old planking that was on the water tank roof.
As to the rest of the house, money is running low so things may take a bit longer than planed, we plan to do only a few things over the summer as we have to work on the web site etc and anything else that may get money in.
We are fighting the worries that all this is going to come tumbling down due to no money coming in, The teaching job that Theresa has ends for the summer this week, we hope that it will start again in September (we are as sure as anything in the future that it will) but we need a bit more coming in to be able to continue the work on the house and to be able to see the family etc.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Another month gone!

Och... its June and We have not blogged!
True we have had promptings from friends to get down and write something - anything... Its not as if nothing has happened but most of it is all small things. Well one large thing did happen, We got our money back from the local council, yes €600, in cash (we emptied the till). But as to the rest not much has been finished, its all little things; like the wall for the water tank, the rendering on the walls for the Dining room.
There are two main reasons for this, one being that we have had guests over for one week, the other is that we (well to be honest its me) just have not been feeling that much like doing much.
We did help to move one of our friends from Santa Cruz to Puntagorda, I would not say that it was a fun day but it was a good day.. She lived in one of the old water mills above Santa Cruz, and the only access was a donkey trail so it involved around 4 trips back and forth to the car of about 1Km each way but as there were 6 of us and not too much stuff it was not bad. The other end was much better as we could get the car a lot closer to the house (3 m)..
I have been feeling like I have lost my way lately, it may be that the house is talking a lot longer to complete. Part of it is also that we are trying to do to many things at once. At the moment we have the following part done; the dining room, the drains, the grape vine, the garden (veg patch), the solar electric and the bathroom roof (not to meanchon the bathroom its self) oh yes and the tiles in the entertainment room. Then there is the money situation, its running out.. So I think we need to just get some things finished... and have a bit of a brake.

Friday, May 09, 2008

A new window on the Garden

Hi all

Its been a very busy two weeks - two weeks ago we finally got the new windows that are going in the dinning room and kitchen. not grate windows but only just over €100 each so cheep and they are on the back of the house so are not a problem as to looks.
Well the first window to go in replaces the door in the dinning room to the garden, as there were 5 doorways from the dinning room changing one to a window at least results in one wall without a door and a nice view out on the garden.
The first job was to move the current door from the opening in the dinning room to the opening in the Kitchen (manly as the old door had the cat flap and also was mostly glass so there is more light in the kitchen). The problem was that the door was 2cm bigger that the one in the kitchen, but a quick run down with the angle grinder and a few bashes with the hammer and chisel and the door fits great (wooden door frames what wooden door frames its all concrete!!!)
Next the old opening needed to be part bricked up to form the base of the window.... Now the door was about 70cm and the window is 1m so the top had to be opened up a little. For this we got a BIG angle grinder (and still it was not big enough to cut through all the wall only went 1/3 of the way through so again required a lot of hammering (remember that this wall is made of concrete and stones, big stones, some about 30cm in diameter, so it was rather hard work), but finally we had the opening and a new lintel added. After that putting the window in was simple.

The rest of the time has been spent rendering the walls and ceiling of the room, and it does look quite good now. See the before and after photos below.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Zodiacal Light and Lasers in the Sky

A few times recently we have noticed a glow in the western sky after sunset. We had thought that it might be some light pollution coming from the main center of the village. This would not be a major problem as La Palma has very strict laws governing light pollution. So this evening we decided to go out for a drive having spotted this glow and find out where it was coming from, and to our surprise we found that the glow did not have a terrestrial source. Having read a bit I discovered that what we were seeing was what is known as the Zodiacal Light. This is the light from the sun being reflected off very small grains of dust in orbit around the Sun. It is only visible in dark non light polluted skies. Unfortunately I didn't manage to get a picture of this but I will keep an eye out and try and get one.

When we got back from our little drive around to try and find the source of the glow, as we got out of the car I looked up to the sky as I normally do and noticed something in the sky. What I saw was a straight line across the sky. This is the 25W Laser which is projected from the William Herschel Telescope to provide an artificial guide star for the adaptive optics system which allows the removal of the effects of the air turbulence which is what causes the stars to twinkle.

30sec Exposure showing Laser

2 1/2 minute Exposure showing Laser tracking stars

Work in Progress

Now that we have the cement mixer set up in an easier position. We have been able to get a lot of jobs done around the house, the two main ones are the position for the water tanks behind the old toilet block which also includes the pipe work for the connection of the new bathroom toilet into the existing sewerage system. This has meant digging out an area and building a block wall to hold back the earth from the top level outside the house.

Also we have been working on putting the roof on the roof. What I mean by that is that on the roof we have a small block built cupboard which will house all the equipment for the solar panels. This week we added the top to this, and once the cement has set we will top this off with some traditional Spanish tiles.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The "Bloody Stupid" Jonhson Sand Delivery System

Well, actually I have decided it can't be called the "Bloody Stupid" Johnson Sand Delivery system as it does in fact work. For those of you who are wondering "Bloody Stupid" Johnson is a character from the disc world novels by Terry Pratchett. The character was an inventor who would make wonderful inventions only they would always have some little quirk which made them next to useless. For example he made a sorting machine for the post office which had a wheel in which PI was exactly 3 and hence would distort space time and sort letters before they had even been written.

But lets get back to the sand delivery system. We have rigged up a system using a piece of large plastic tubbing, some corrugated iron, rope and some wire, and water piping that allows us to shovel sand and gravel in at the top and at the bottom is the cement mixer ready and waiting to receive it's load. With this set up it means that we no longer have to shift large buckets or wheelbarrows full of gravel down every time we want to mix concrete.

The cement mixer in operation to load all you have to do is turn the drum to face the other direction and pour gravel in from the top.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Where, oh Where, DOES all the Crap Go?

This is a very important subject on our minds at the moment, OK it may sound crude or something,but it is REALLY important. Why I hear you ask. Well one of the major tasks this year is to convert the old water tank in to a new bathroom. We now have a roof on the tank and a opening into the house, the next job is to start the pluming, and one of the tasks, as part of that is to lay new drains. Now for you who live in the UK and most major towns this is not hard - find the nearest man hole and connect the new drains to that. Well it is not quite that simple here....
We in the country don't have main drains.. So what do we have? We have what is called a Poso Negro, the direct translation of that is "Black Well", and up to last week we did not know where it was and in what condition it was in. We had some idea that it was located close to the current bathroom, (which is a 1m x 2m concrete hut in the garden). We thought that it might be under about half a meter of soil that was dumped in front of the loo to bring the ground up to the level of the house. Well last week I started clearing a space behind the loo to hold the tank for gray water recycling. while doing so I notest that there appeared to be a concrete wall below the loo....
After some work with a hammer, there was a hole and behold we have the Poso Negro, and what is the poso negro? A large hole in the ground, about 1 meter square and 2 meters deep, (well to the serf ice of the water, I am not going to find out how deep that is!!!!), With the loo on top of it.
So now all I have to do is put in the new pipes and close up the hole and we have somewhere for the new loo to empty into.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

We have our Bag...

Well our bag did finally arrived at Sheila's and we have it back with all the bits that were in it. Apart from that we have done nothing this week, it has been raining everyday since we got back and I have been working on the Ruido FanZine Layout most of the time, but that should be all done with by Monday and I hope that the weather will be better next week. We plan to order the new windows for the Dinning hall and Kitchen tomorrow, nothing special just the cheapest we can get.
If the weather improves I need to drill some holes in the roof for all the solar power feeds and lay a concrete base for the battery housing, its only been waiting to do it for 6 months, just haven't been able to get round to it with all the work on the bypass.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Back in La Palma

We are back in La Palma after having spent a week in the UK.

I'm sorry to anyone that we didn't get round to seeing but it's very hard to cram everything into one week.

Both trips were a little problematic due to delays and problems checking in due to the fact that although the flights are all sold as Iberia some of them are provided by BA which means you can't get your boarding passed till you get to the airport and when your first flight is delayed this means you have to run from one end of Madrid Airport to the other in order to get the flight. We made it with minutes to spare, and as we sat on the plane we saw one of our bags turn up and be loaded on the plane. However when we got to Tenerife we found out that it hadn't and we only had one bag. So we asked and they said it had already gone to La Palma via Seville. So we checked in for La Palma and when we got there and spoke to the Iberia rep he was very rude and treated me like a idiot, anyway he said I had to speak to the Binter Canarias office. So I did and they were much better. They knew my bag was still in Madrid and they would try and get it to me tomorrow.

They phoned this morning and the bag should be delivered to Sheila's house either today or tomorrow morning.

Off to go and pick up Tabby later from the Vet, Couldn't pick her up yesterday as the Vet's was closed on Good Friday so we stayed overnight at Sheila's

Friday, March 07, 2008

Ouch That's gotta Hurt

As I am writing this Helen is in bed resting.

This is due to the fact that Wednesday morning while she was doing some tidying up in the garden, she was walking backwards with the wheelbarrow and thinking about other things, and didn't realize that there was a pile of rocks on the ground behind her.

So over she went, unfortunately behind her was a 1.5M drop to the terrace below, with more rocks and other rubbish down there. She managed to get up and back into the house where it appeared that nothing was obviously broken.

How ever when I got home the pain in her side midway under her arm was worrying me so we went to the health center in Barlovento where the doctor examined her and decided that she best go to the Hospital for and x-ray just to make sure she hadn't cracked a rib.

So off the the Hospital above Santa Cruz, and thankfully all here ribs were intact just badly bruised, so Helen has to rest and take it easy for a week or so.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

1st Helresa Caption Compertition

OK this large vegtable was culled from our garden, it is a relation to the marrow. Suggestions for a caption on a postcard to Casa de Estrellas...... or alternativaly just add them here as comments.

It´s finished...... Phew that was fast

OK there are a few things left to do, like tomorrowremove the wooden formers and in about 4 weeks time remove the props from that inside but that is it the roof is on, and we have a hole through the wall.

The wall before the doorway
The hole ready for a doorway
The whole roof, complete in 3 Days!!!
The bracing to hold all the concrete in place while it sets
and the props to hole the whole thing up until it dries completely in about 28 Days.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The roof goes on

Well from just the old roof being removed yesterday and a little bit of wall being knocked off things are now speeding along. The concrete beams are in place and the blocks have been placed between them. The whole roof is bring surrounded with steel reinforceing bars that will form a solid ring beam to hole the whole roof togeather once the concrete is poured tomorrow.

Our Builder finishing tiying all the reforcing bars togeatherAnother shot showing all the materials stacked up and the ventalation tube going in.
On the inside the hole for the door is progressing well with just about another 2 foot at the bottom to remove, apparently the wall is harder than they thought.

Monday, February 25, 2008

EEEK!! The Cement mixers are breeding and somebody has nicked our roof

Not much has been happening on the house over the last week as we have had Helen´s son Ben staying with us so we have been doing all the touristy things. Including 2 trips up to the Roque to show Ben round both the Gallilao and the GranTeCan.
Today Helen took the car to drop Ben off at the Airport, so after I finished work at the school I took the bus into Santa Cruz to meet up with Helen to do some shopping. When we got home we discovered that the builder had arrived that morning and started on the work to put a new roof on the water tank and he had brought all his tools along and put them next to ours.
So far all he has removed the old wooden roof and removed the top part of the wall read to put on the roof. Tomorrow he should be creating the doorway through and prepearing to lay the roof.

The old wooden roof has been removedAnd materials to construct the new roof ready and waiting and a shot from the side showing where the preperation has started

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bertha's New Hips

After a number of weeks with problems about parts and postponement due to the weather. Bertha our Berlingo finally has new suspension ball joints. Thanks to our friend Sheila's husband Carlos. Now hopefully once we have had the alignment checked we should stop going through a set of tires every 3 months.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

No Soldering Required

I was going to make a small electronic circuit called an EQMOD which would allow the computer to talk directly to the stepper motors inside the EQ6 telescope mount. However with the latest version of the firmware for the mount handset there is what they describe as a "PC Direct Mode".
This can be found in the V3.21 of the handset firmware. With this mode you can just connect the PC to the handset and then the handset to the telescope mount as normal, but use the EQMOD software which gives a major improvement over the standard controls contained within the handset.

On other news I have contacted Nick Hudson at Tru-tech about my filter wheel and he has promised to put some replacement chips in the post

Hole in the Wall Gang

This week I came home from work one day this week to discover that not only had Helen put some rendering on the wall in the dinning room but also a large hole had appeared in the corner of the room through to the bedroom.

Why is there a hole through the wall from the dinning room to the bedroom? Well the trick is that where this hole is there will be a wood burning stove. The hole will house a grill and a fan which will push the hot air from the stove through into the bedroom.

Helen has made a plywood frame to sit in the hole with a correctly sized hole and mounting points to take a standard PC case fan. The PC fan will be powered using a peltier element attached to the stove so that as the stove heats up the peltier will start to generate current causing the fan to run .

Plywood frame ready for fitting.
Fitted in the wall And finaly the wall made good

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Oranges & Lemons

One thing we have noticed living here is that every now and then you have various items of produce turn up. We have had potatoes, pumpkin and other things like that, but the other day as we were sorting out some things outside the house to go to the dump. We heard a "hóla" coming up from the steps to the lower terraces, an then appeared the farmer who owns the large house a the top of our pista. On his shoulder was a large bucket full to the brim of Oranges.

It's Broke

As I am typing this I am at Sheila's.

Carlos is outside trying to put the suspension back together on the Berlingo. We took it in last week to get the tires changed as they were badly worn (even though they were only 6 months old) and to check the alignment. However they discovered that the ball joints on the bottom of the suspension were badly worn and needed replacing. Hence why the car was eating tires. We got the parts and this weekend we stayed overnight so that Carlos could change the parts today, however like most things on our berlingo it would seem that the parts are non standard so we are having to put the old ones back until next weekend when the correct parts should be here.

It's not the only thing that I have discovered broken this week. While trying out some of my astronomy equipment this week I discovered that my tru-tech filter wheel is broken. I have been in contact with Ian King who I brought the wheel from and luckily there is somebody else on the Island that I know who also had a problem with his wheel and might have some spare electronics to help me repair it.

What does 2 cubic meters of Gravel look like?

What does 2 cubic meters of gravel look like? Well if you look at the photo below you can see.
This is Helen with her shovel moving the pile a bit so that we could get the car in after the lorry had been. In order to get the gravel delivered we talk to our friends Ann & David from La Casita over at the other end of the village and they then speak to Luis that delivery driver who then if he doesn't forget (which he has a habit of doing!) comes along with his small dumper truck and delivers sand, cement, gravel and what ever else you have ordered.

Why do we need so much sand and gravel? This is the second delivery we have had in the last few weeks. The reason we need so much is that while the weather has been fine for the last week or so and as it has been half term we have been working a lot on the steps and ramp out the front. This is now taking on such gigantic proportions that we have now named it "The Franceses Bypass"

Friday, February 01, 2008

Save Our Astronomy

Now you know that I don't get that political unless it is something that I really feel strongly about.
Right now I am fuming at the stupidity of the current suggested cuts to astronomy research facilities across the UK.
This has come about due to a £80millon budget shortfall in the budget for the Science and Technologies Funding Council (STFC)
Not only will this entail a 25% cut to all physics grants, but several important UK Science facilities are under threat. The most stupid is the withdrawal of the UK from the Gemini north 8Meter telescope on Hawaii this now leaves UK astronomers with out access to a large telescope in the northern hemisphere. Also the funding for most of the UK Telescopes here on La Palma looks like it will stopped as well.

Update, My friend Sheila has put it much better than I ever could on her blog here

To find out more and to find out how you can help visit the following site.

Save Astronomy