No really.

I did forget how to update.

Ahem.

And the last post of the year…

VikiVortexItunes.gif

Ahem. It’s me again. Tail between my legs having not posted since, what, April? That’s horrendous. I apologize. Sometimes life gets in the way of keeping a blog up to date.

So – what’s been happening in the world of whangdoodleland? Well, what hasn’t! I’ve managed 34 flights this year – all but 7 on Ryanair. I love Ryanair. I can’t fault them for the value for money they offer. Once you get the whole ‘pack light’ thing down, it’s brilliant! Yes, my carbon footprint is huge. I’ll plant a tree or something.

I managed to finally get back to the US twice this year. Like buses – I haven’t been back in 9 years and suddenly two trips pop up at once. Relatively. I hit San Francisco, Los Gatos, San Jose, Detroit, Toronto, and all various places in between. I caught up with folks I haven’t seen in years and met new people all over the place as well. I will admit, I miss the US sometimes. Everywhere has it’s faults, but the opportunities that the US offers can sometimes outweigh its disadvantages.

Website-wise, I’ve set up a few new sites. Have a look at 21dots for more information on my band. Our first release is available on iTunes (and how weird is THAT to see myself on iTunes!).

I’m also focussing a lot on my publication design at the moment, have a look at wr3n.com for more info on that.

As for the whole ‘living in Spain’ thing. Still here. With the economic ‘crisis’ it’s been apparent that the bubble has burst over here. Of course, the Spanish government seems to be impersonating a ostrich with it’s burying the head in the sand approach. Although it would be nice to believe that the worst is over, I have my own doubts. I’m convinced that the European Summit that met earlier this year in London all got together and said ‘Hey – all this doom and gloom is getting us no where. No one is spending money! Let’s tell everyone the recession is over! And all will be better.’ So that’s what they did. Some people, more fools them, have even believed it.

With 2010 looming upon us (that’s an understatement, with it being New Year’s Day tomorrow and all), I’m hoping that this year brings more excitement and prosperity for all that deserve it. I could say I will make a resolution to keep this blog better updated, but we all know that won’t happen. Resolutions are usually broken. But in general, I’ll make an effort – it’s not like I’ve forgotten how to update it or anything…

Scuba diving!

A little bit of self-promotion here!
I just finished designing a site for a new scuba diving center in Cala Galdana in Menorca, Blue Islands Diving. They are offering all sorts of scuba diving holidays, courses, holidays and even snorkeling in a beautiful part of Menorca. Check them out! Makes me want to go scuba diving… or at least to Menorca! Apparently, they do a Discover Scuba course for beginners.. maybe I should work out a trade, eh?

We went on holiday once to Mallorca, just for a long weekend. It was a few years ago now, and we went sort of to celebrate Steve’s birthday (which is tomorrow, actually!). We ended up flying back with our cat, Inca, a Burmilla rescue cat from the town of Inca (funnily enough…). I would love to go back – having done even more research into the islands. Like I found out there’s a Garlic and Shots restaurant in Palma. Seeing as Garlic and Shots is one of my favourite bars/restaurants in Soho, London. I try to get there as often as possible, if not for a meal, then at least to sample one of their 101 shots in the bar downstairs.

We stayed in Alcudia, in an aparthotel sort of thing in the modern bit. But we had a car so didn’t stick around. It was in the off season so it was a cheap weekend break through lastminute.com. I think that might have been the last ‘proper holiday’ we’ve had and it was at least 3 years ago. Time to go somewhere again, I think!

On apathy and insurance!

This blog has deviated quite a bit from the ‘living in Spain’ it started out to be. Because at some point in the adventure, living in Spain is just a location. And the adventure would continue no matter what country I lived in.

But every now and then, I want to mention something about the trials and tribulations of living in Spain. Things that irk me, like bank charges and insurance. All those things that are irksome no matter where you live, but slightly more so when you are dealing with things in a foreign language.

I received my ‘quote’ for the home insurance last week. Well, as it’s Spain, it’s not so much a quote but rather a ‘we’ll be removing this amount of money from your bank account in a few days unless you get off your arse and jump over hoops to tell us not to’. Actually – to get the letter -before- the money was taken out of the account is a bonus. Normally I get my bills about a week after the money has left, so I guess that’s progress.

The insurance had increased by about 70 euros a year – about 25%. Kind of a lot, dontcha think? So I decided to look around. And as Linea Directa (the Spanish arm of Direct Line) had come through with reasonable prices for my motorbike and car insurance, I decided to try them. Online quoting system was much easier than popping into my bank down the road and querying their costs. Can you believe that the price came in at about 300 euros CHEAPER than the insurance that I currently have? I mean, I expected perhaps I could save 50 euros or so. Would I have switched if it were that small amount? I doubt it. But 300 euros!? Come ON!

It reminds me of when I first started getting bike insurance quotes through the gestor. And when I asked for a quote, I would get one (very overpriced) and they would proceed to fill out the paperwork, assuming that as I asked for a price, clearly I needed insurance and who the hell shops around in this country? No one, it would seem.

So I contracted insurance with Linea Directa, who told me to recommend them to my friends (which, obviously, I’m doing! Tell them I sent you!). The paperwork came by email about a half hour later. The following day I went to my bank to tell them not to renew the amazingly high priced insurance and they said ‘Oh, well. You need to provide us with proof…’ and I cut her off by presenting the paperwork that Linea Directa had emailed. “Oh.” So no excuses, no trying to get my business back, just a raised eyebrow that The Foreigner had managed to secure a better deal and didn’t just pay the amount for an easy life.

I’m sure it’s a culture thing and I’ll bet I’ve mentioned it before somewhere. Where in the US and UK we are used to, and even encouraged, to shop around, here in Spain it seems that you pay the price on the tin. Shopping for a new vacuum cleaner? That Dyson will be the same price at every single shop in town. And even out of town. Before the likes of the online retailers/providers like Linea Directa and Pixmania, if you wanted anything, there was no point in driving around searching for a better deal. And the culture still remains the same. You need some windows for your house? Go to the guy who makes windows and ask him. He’ll be surprised if you ask for a quote first. You need windows. He makes windows. You’ll get them from him no matter what, won’t you? (Well, no actually…)

I’m not a big fan of banks and insurance at the best of times, but when it’s clear that they are trying to take the piss – I can feel pretty damn smug about telling them exactly where to get off by taking my business elsewhere. And I’m glad that finally, there IS somewhere to take my business to.

Radio Silence

New Year's Day in Estartit

Happy New Year! (Shot of L’Estartit on New Year’s Day above.)

And here I am again – delayed with the posting as usual!

I’ve been busy with creating a few websites actually – including one for some friends running a scuba diving centre in Menorca called Blue Islands Diving. Makes me want to try scuba diving, which I’ve never ever done. Or even snorkling! I can’t believe I live 7 kilometres from the beautiful Medes Islands and L’Estartit – a haven for scuba divers – and I’ve never even ventured out. Must remedy that sometime soon.

In other news, The Spurts have a gig going in February at the Dirty Water club in North London. That should be a good laugh. It used to be an old haunt of ours when we lived in Holloway so it’ll be quite fun to actually perform there! 2009 looks like it’ll be a fun year for music and stuff, so looking forward to that.

We’ve been to a few gigs in the past couple of weeks.

Al and the Black Cats In December, we saw the fabulous Al and the Black Cats in Barcelona. Those guys are awesome. If you get a chance to see them, go! The energy these young guys put into their concert really got the crowd going. And they are from Michigan, USA – which obviously breeds a lot of talented musicians – our friends Choking Susan are also from Michigan. Is it something in the water out there? I’ve put up a few videos of Al and the Black Cats as well over at google video so have a look but make sure to go see them in concert sometime. Apparently they are always on the road.

We also went to Barcelona to watch the Atomic Leopards. But we missed them. And here comes my little moan to spanish promoters: PROMOTE! I mean, the poster for the concert which Ste only happened to come across on myspace said 10pm. So, having learned our lesson countless times before about showing up at a gig too early here in Spain (usually anytime before midnight…), we aimed to get there for 11pm. But then we got lost. (Note to self: buy GPS system!) So when we finally walked into the Big Bang Bar in Barcelona we were a bit surprised to find a packed bar but no band. We asked the DJ where the band was and he replied, “Oh – they played at 9pm. The doors opened at 8. They finished around 10pm and left.” How very un-spanish. What the hell is going on!?

Hollywood SinnersA few days later we went to Macanet de la Selva with slight intrepidation to see the Hollywood Sinners. Luckily, the town isn’t quite as far away as Barcelona so we ventured out for about 11pm. The band started around 12:30 – like they should here in Spain! Great band with a wild performance… well, at least the audience was rather wild. More pictures over at my flickr page of course!

Other stuff? Well, I’m still learning how to play double bass although it tears up my fingers something rotten until I get some softer strings. I’ve even been heard singing on a few tunes with our other band. (Ahem.) I still haven’t brought myself to get a new MacBook Pro although with the current exchange rate as it is, it’s actually a lot cheaper to buy it in the UK than in Spain. Never thought that would happen.

Sign on UndergroundI have no comment on the current ‘credit crunch’ – except it was clear it was going to happen and why the heck didn’t all the builders ’round here realize that? The amount of empty flats and houses for sale is incredible. The lot next door to us is now a muddy swamp. It’s been 2 years since they knocked those houses down and I’ll bet the builder is kicking himself… As a note to that previous post from 2 years ago – yes, the mayor was voted out as predicted.

And I leave you with this picture, which I took while on the London Underground a few weeks ago. I like the fact that, according to the sign, the British Transport Police will be sending out helicopters to arrest vandalisers. On the Tube. Underground. I had half a mind to spray paint graffiti just to see a helicopter arrive on the Circle line.