Thursday, 23 January 2020

The Spanish Bank Card Saga and associated ramifications

This is a complicated story that as is usual in such cases commenced from humble,simple beginnings.It may provide entertainment, but far more skilled storytellers and wordsmiths would probably do a far better job of outlining this woeful tale.


I have regularly travelled to Spain for the previous 20 years and 3 years ago decided a Spanish bank account would be a useful addition. I duly opened an account at my local branch of Banco Sabadell(from now referred to as BS) in La Jonquera and received a Visa debit card, usefully, this card was acceptable through the French autoroute tolls and at all petrol outlets en-route. The card had an expiry date of Feb 2020. In October 2019 I sent an e-mail to BS requesting that,when due, a new card be sent to my UK address, followed up by a visit into the branch in November to reinforce that request problem was the response.

Unexpected Recent Trip to Spain 

Last Friday 17/1/20 I received the tragic news of the death of a dear close friend who lived in Spain, and that the funeral was to be on Monday 20/1/20 so with zero time to organise much other than booking ferry and hotels en-route using my BS card we set out virtually immediately, arriving at a hotel in La Jonquera on Sunday, close to where the funeral was to take place the next day. The BS card used without incident for tolls and fuel.
As I had not received my replacement card with less than 2 weeks before expiry I decided yet again to go into the BS branch on the morning of the funeral to reiterate the necessity of providing this replacement card in good time and sending it to my UK address. I signed a form and thought no more about this, but the ramifications were just about to begin.
Later that day following the funeral we called into a Spanish supermarket, filled a trolley up with vast amounts of Kas(Spanish soft drink), San Miguel (lager) and other delicacies. To our horror the transaction was refused, even removing the bulk of the contents the card was still refused. Luckily we still had some cash remaining, so purchased a vastly reduced quantity of 'goodies' and resolved to call into BS in the morning to sort the issue out.

Storm Gloria 

When we arrived in Spain on the Sunday it was a balmy afternoon of sunshine and 14 degs C, however Google and the local weather forecast was full of dire warnings for the next 3 days, again we were only mildly interested in this thinking it would have minimal impact. The storm seemed to commence just prior to the funeral on Monday am with torrential rain and high winds, by the time next morning when we wanted to go to the BS branch to sort out our card woes, the weather had continued to worsen and all main roads into and out of Spain( at La Jonquera) were closed due to snow,flooding etc. Our hotel had a power cut just about 2 hours before the bank was due to open and yes you have guessed correctly by the time we fought our way through the carnage of backed up lorries and cars....the bank was closed.
I could continue this horror story with further details where my partner Eirlys, given instruction to try the card in a BS card machine to see if 'active' put it into a non-proprietary machine and the duff card retained - after I went into this bank to ask for the return of the card, they gave the helpful(???) advice of going to BS and ask for a new card,and refusing to return my card.
We had decided at this stage that the only plausible way of escaping Spain was to travel via the tortuous coastal route, but that we would need some money for the journey. Combining the two requirements we travelled to Llanca where amazingly I went into a BS branch without card but showed passport and driving licence and after a little hassle secured 400 euro. This allowed us to commence our journey home.
A few minor dramas continued but we managed to get home at 04:00, 23/1/20

BS seem to have angry disgruntled customers with a very poor rating,1,,,

Monday, 17 June 2019

Stupidity:- Yes totally guilty

A really silly tale here, something we all may have done at some time or other. I was unaware I had left a drivers door window slightly ajar just over a week ago, a neighbour remarked that it was open and unthinkingly at that stage I went out and closed the window.
Later, upon reflection I was a little more concerned as we had experienced(along with many parts of the country) much heavy rainfall. Next day I started the car, and my attention diverted by operating a powered roof that was 'playing up' and operating sluggishly, when I looked at the dashboard it was to my horror still lit up like a Christmas tree of warning lights.
So, even though the floor and seats in the car were bone-dry, rainwater had clearly got into/under the dashboard and some damage the result. The ECU, ABS lights were just 2 of the warning lights that warned me to stop the car and get to a garage or auto electrician asap. Last week was abysmal in terms of weather and this caused me to abandon all thoughts of attempting to limp to a garage, my rationale was that a damp atmosphere would exacerbate the situation.
As happens in Beard life, my thoughts turned to potentially swapping the car, but fortunately this came to nought, the car in question is relatively worthless, but a gem (27k miles 2010 Audi TT convertible, Autotrader value < £6k)
To end this tedious tale ... GOOD NEWS...

Exactly 1 week after last trying to use the car I had to move it a few yards, lo and behold NO warning lights were on the car, and after using it on a short journey stopping and starting it a few times the problem seems to have gone away.

Trivial stuff I know, nothing profound, but a very timely warning of what could have been a major expense , fuses,relays,ECU ....£Hundreds even Thousands and lingering doubts about future reliability.

This blog post is a carry on from here, for those who may not have read it!

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Agggh Brexit!

No, I am far from bored or disinterested in this ever-fascinating subject. I will state from the onset I was and remain a Brexit supporter.

I don't propose to do a highly detailed account charting such things as a seeming May/Robbins betrayal of the work of Brexit Ministers David Davies and Steve Baker arriving at 'her deal' with the contentious Irish backstop.

The whole negotiating process was deeply flawed from the outset and well argued here  that the EU had outmanoeuvred the UK even before the Referendum results were announced, by contrast we had done zero preparation.

On a personal level the level of demeaning,bitterness and bile hurled towards folks who supported Brexit has been truly galling, Lorien summarises this phenomenom very well - here 

So, I have set the scene somewhat.

$64k ?  Where does this now go, with Parliament in turmoil ...a multitude of options exist BUT

I am not a defeatist by nature and do not give in readily to bullies .... the various options leave me with a measure of distaste for all . The only one that has any appeal is the EEA/EFTA option, if we are not able to manage a purpose made option that avoids the Irish border difficulties.

So ...... I think that, heaven forbid, we should simply revoke Article 50 for now, settle in with the EU again for at least 1 EU Parliamentary term of 5 years.  STRONG well supported Brexit parties  need to emerge.that learn from this whole debacle. Clear policies and negotiating positions need establishing well before any repeat of triggering. This sadly though is probably a pipe dream, the 1st past the post system ensures the domination of the 'big-two' parties.

In conclusion, it's fairly clear to this author where HMG and Parliament should be moving to, but up to date revoking Article 50 seems to not feature in any Parliamentary debate, so is an unlikely option.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Unashamedly Cars

I have been a fully paid up state pensioner for just under a year, but the love of owning and driving cars remains undimmed.
My earliest recollections of childhood all revolve around cars, some of my most memorable and pleasurable memories throughout my life revolve around road trips,journeys,whether by camper van,motorcycle,or

My love of cars has never been especially about the inner workings or self- maintenance of whatever vehicle I happened to own. This was ingrained into my psyche with my first ever car, a Mini,where I decided to strip an SU carburettor to make the vehicle run 'better' - the resultant mess of missing springs,needle-jets etc forever cured that budding mechanic. I prefer to leave the maintenance to enthusiasts and genuine experts, it's the driving that's the attraction.

I'm sure that it would be truly boring to anyone who has managed to get this far, for me to list and appraise the various vehicles I have owned over the years(assuming I could attempt to recall 45+years of ownership). Instead of that, my focus will be on the last 12-13 months in an attempt to make sense of a flurry of car activity.

December 2017 total cars owned (3) :- Toyota MR2 (Mk 3), Honda Civic Type R(new shape), 2002 Honda Accord Type R

Just over 12 months ago this was my 'stable', all very good cars and each capable of delivering much pleasure but two were sold within a few months.The first to go was the MR2 roadster that was a 2006 model with ~ 30,000 miles in excellent condition, bought following extensive research into affordable roadsters with good driving characteristics. Yes I knew it had minimal to zero storage with no boot, but it did provide many happy moments throughout its life with me, but decided it had to go for another slightly more practical vehicle opted for a 2011 Honda Civic Type R with ~10k miles in wonderful condition.

June 2018 total cars owned(4) Honda Civic Type R (old +new shapes), Accord Type R,  Skoda Octavia Scout 4x4 

My experience with the new shape 316bhp Civic Type R was very mixed throughout my short ownership of 6 months. The car is immensely capable and far exceeds my capabilities to explore its true potential, however what I could state is that the cornering ability, acceleration and braking were outstanding BUT my car was beset with silly niggling issues that spoiled my ownership experience. The fuel filler neck was frozen up with a 3'' block of ice,just as we were about to go on a long journey, another troubling non-Honda issue was that rodents loved to chew upon the battery and associated cables. Trivial, but sufficient to leave me slightly dissatisfied, enough though to make me look at a Skoda to replace it!
The UK Winter of 2017-18 was harsh including a number of 'beast from the East' episodes, the second of which left us without hot or cold water due to frozen water pipes and the consequent inability to use our gas boiler, to compound this our roads were blocked with snow. Following this episode I decided that a cheap 4x4 runabout was needed, after much deliberation a petrol Skoda Octavia Scout 160 bhp was acquired and immediately was impressed by its ability,quality and sturdiness.
This Octavia purchase led to me replacing the Type R mentioned above from a dealership that had both Honda and Skoda in its group, so after test driving a Skoda Superb DSG 280 4x4 petrol I did a swap.
Car fever had clearly taken hold of me at this stage as I was also a little dissatisfied with the hard riding older Type R and managed to swap for a nearly new Hyundai i30N

July 2018 total cars owned (4) Skoda Superb 4x4, Skoda Octavia Scout 4x4, Hyundai i30N, Honda Accord Type R 

So now I have 4 cars! and nagging doubts start creeping in, why on earth do you need 4 cars ffs!, why are all of them of a similar ilk (the Skoda Scout was remapped from its stock 160 bhp to 210bhp)? I tried to donate the Scout to my daughter, the Accord to my son, but alas .....this failed to happen. As is usual in Beard life, events then happened suddenly,rapidly but just maybe for the better! roll on now to the end of 2018

January 2019 total cars owned(4) VW Polo Gti (1.8), Audi TT roadster 1.8, Skoda Fabia 1.0 (110), Honda Accord Type R 

Virtually a complete overhaul of my 'garage' and my son is going to take the Accord this weekend. All of the 3 other cars have been remapped as all feature turbochargers, the expert who did this has done all of my vehicles for the past 10 years and I am always delighted at the result. All are exceedingly pleasant to drive, the humble Fabia is the workhorse, but it's a little gem.


I must be mad! Car dealers around the UK rub their hands with glee whenever I make contact, but its both my hobby and passion,however this constant tinkering does come at a price so a period of stability must now be the regime.

***** barely finished writing this, when AAAAAAAGGGHHHH a dealer contacted me to see if I want to swap my recently purchased 2010 32k mile Audi TT for a 2018 Fiat 124 Spider 3k miles! The madness never ceases it seems.

24 hours on, 2 Fiats later, I am back to a previous deal from 2 weeks ago :- a newer TT, a Mk3 circa 2016.

Beard nonsense continued, the newer Audi mentioned has been traded in along with the Polo for a 17 reg Audi TTs

So by early Feb. maybe, just maybe sanity has returned and now this 2 person 'family' has returned to just 2 cars, especially as only one of us drives.

Early April arrived and the recently purchased Skoda Fabia traded in for a Honda Civic Sport (1.5 Turbo)......yes exactly like the one I traded in at the end of 2017.....gone full circle in 18 months

Mid- April - even more nonsense, the newly acquired Honda Civic has been found to be giving me way too much back pain so has been swapped for a new Hyundai i30N, to finance that I have once again shuffled the Audi TT stable, selling a very expensive TTs for a lesser and much older 1.8 Tfsi.

Owned the Hyundai i30N for a month < 1k miles , sold it for a 2016 Audi TT Coupe (230 bhp, but now 300 bhp) - reasoning? I liked the driving experience of the TT cabriolet that much I reasoned the Coupe would do as my 'transporter' having a largish boot and nominally 4 seats. My 'tuner' Fahad had his usual go at the car ......simply Wow!

But at least only 2 cars in total!

Definitely the last post on this subject, my mind needs to focus on other needs in my life :-)

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Vaping,Vultures and Cars

Please bear with me whilst I do a characteristic waffle,before arriving at the nitty gritty and the real purpose of this post

Starting in reverse order with cars and their power plants, some induce a feeling of pleasure whilst others are nonedescript,functional and bland. PreTurbo era, naturally aspirated cars that I have some knowledge of, include a Honda Accord Type R with a 2.2 litre VTEC, BMW M3 3.2litre, Porsche Boxster 3.4 litre S, all of these have wonderful engines with a delicious exhaust note in my opinion, but how does one quantify a subjective opinion into facts.

We are now in the Turbo era, where naturally aspirated petrol or diesel cars are as rare as hens teeth. From their introduction into F1 and rally cars in the early 80's usually fairly unreliable, and 'peaky' ,turbocharging has improved in leaps and bounds regarding reliability,driveability and efficiency so much so that they are the norm in even the most mundane of vehicle. Just to highlight the staggering evolution, a 4 cylinder 2.0 litre Ford Fiesta of mid 2000's was producing 150 bhp., whereas the latest offering is a 3 cylinder 1.5 litre producing 200 bhp. and is actually more economical. For me though the turbocharger has dulled the sensory pleasure of hearing an engine being 'wrung-out' or extended at 'full chat'.

Continuing my evolutionary story, I must include electric/hydrogen vehicles of which I know little, these are supposedly the future of motoring, speed, zero emissions are among the virtues. High purchase costs even after government assistance, incomplete and patchy charging infrastructure has meant that current sales are modest. My initial impression of these vehicles is that pleasure is even further eroded from the naturally aspirated era, but that is maybe an 'old fogie' with luddite tendencies speaking. The UK Government recently announced that by 2040 all new cars must not include petrol or diesel as their powerplants.........

Now just imagine that was not 2040 but in 6 weeks time, and all existing vehicles must be removed from the road . This is in effect what the latest FDA announcement on #ecigs was implying in a worst case scenario, others have covered this folly in far greater depth than I wish to dwell upon here. It is my contention that Gottleib in cahoots with the likes of the Truth Initiative and Tobacco Free Kids hatched a devious plan probably 12 months ago to knobble ecigs via the commercial success of JUUL. As we know he is proclaiming an epidemic, whilst producing no data, having to act upon public outrage that he and the other organisations have fuelled via a gullible media.This is truly depressing to examine from afar, I can only imagine the despair of US Vapers and the Vape Industry at this ongoing uncertainty. This is where my Vultures could be applied to from the title, but no it's in the next brief paragraph

Very Low Nicotine Containing Content (VLNCC) cigarettes was the other hobbyhorse that FDA head Gottleib was promoting very soon after taking up his post, in conjunction with attempting to move smokers to #ecigs.
I have written about this in a previous blog and I shall now reveal VLCOS (Very Little Chance of Success) is my acronym that for some reason was bastardised into Vultures.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

A Few Reflections

My recent blogging attempts have been rather curtailed for a variety of reasons, shoddy internet availability,far more gifted peers,the lack of anything much to contribute. This blog will follow a typical pattern of a scattergun approach, and trust that someone, somewhere, may find it interesting or at least a discussion starting point.

Newish products tried and tested

I am not a reviewer, and typically if happy with something eg my current Vape set up(s) will not stray too far from them, however I was curious enough to see what the fuss about IQOS and JUUL was about, to buy one when they became available. My initial impressions of IQOS were mild disappointment and thus slightly underwhelmed,but with persistence I found I was looking forward to my 'daily treat' of maybe 2-3 Heets, however the cost of these will always be a prohibiting factor for myself. JUUL in the UK of course has a TPD spec limiting it to 20mg/ml,compared to 58mg/ml availability in the US, however, even though lower than 'ideal', my initial experience is positive and can see this as a useful addition, especially for when driving.

These and other similar products are coming thick and fast, despite the regular nonsense in the media and from the withering voices of rogue 'Public Health' renegades, choices for smokers(considering switching) have increased greatly. I shall not get involved in the curious debate amongst some Vapers opposed to stores stocking these products, but simply state that it's entirely up to the store to decide what they wish to sell.

Following on from my last passage, it would be great to see far more co-operative schemes, where a Vape store works in tandem with an enlightened,pragmatic local Stop Smoking Service eg Leicester, Southampton. Generally SSS have seen a reduction in footfall and a reduction in their staff numbers and budgets, this is a natural consequence if seen by the consumer as irrelevant and by cash strapped councils who are not always seeing value for money. It is still very concerning that over 66% of local govt have not adopted an e-cig friendly approach as implicitly advocated by Public Health England, Royal College of Physicians .....etc, the Public Health Minister Steve Brine states it's advisory!


This raises its head either at an EU or UK level, the EU has a 'consultation' that is ongoing, the UK if the SUN newspaper is to be believed is proposing a sin-tax in the November budget to raise £40 million to be used for the NHS. To state the obvious this would be nonsensical when other Departments and Agencies are supposedly in favour of Harm Reduction. I hope this is/was a 'planted' story with no substance, if that is not the case and the Chancellor does indeed announce a 'sin-tax' this UK Government will confirm its ineptitude in no uncertain terms

Sunday, 15 October 2017

The level of Support Required for New #ecig Switchers and a few suggestions

None of what I shall be writing here is rocket science or even original content,apart from a wacky idea that I shall advance towards the end of this blog

After this quite encouraging but slightly misguided RCGP conference summary was published,it triggered an instant response from me in the comments section

Without rehashing the same comments, it ran along the lines that GP and most Stop Smoking Service(SSS) have neither the knowledge, or in particular the financial resources(+staff) to fully support new switchers, if they have chosen to use e-cigarettes in place of tobacco cigarettes. Please note, I do not expect, or am advocating for free kits to be provided by SSS, however if their budgets allow,this could well be very helpful(but piss off non-smoking taxpayers?) Hampshire and Bristol have just  introduced such schemes .

The vast majority of #ecigs users will have transitioned from tobacco cigarettes without any GP or SSS involvement whatsoever. There are a few notable exceptions, such as Louise Ross from Leicester SSS, who have been incredibly supportive since 2014 pioneering and campaigning for an e-cig friendly service(along with so much more).

How, many of the 1.5 million UK sole users have been 'supported' to date

1) Vaping Forums  eg AAEC , Planet of the Vapes , UK Vapers , E-Cigarette Forum are the 'Big Four' in the UK

Each of these have new user sections, the level of knowledge,guidance, general product and mental support awe inspiring, and certainly not to be dismissed or discounted.

2) Dedicated Facebook Groups :- way too numerous to make a meaningful list, but try this 

3) Twitter - very quickly can get support from #Vapefam, most folks very willing to help new users. try this site to get you started  as a suggestion(thousands of others also exist)

4) Bricks and Mortar Vape shops - again a vast amount of knowledge exists here

Items 1-4 have supported 'many', but I cannot and would not estimate how large a proportion of the 1.5 million sole users(out of 2.9million total users) were exposed to this knowledge and information

**Note, after writing my blog, this academic article appeared on twitter, which covers the above points in a similar, but more rigorous manner, covering 4192 former smokers.

Hare brained Suggestion Time to provide additional useful Support

 a) Social Media from Central Governmentt Sources/ Public Health England/NHS dealing with Smoking eg #Stoptober here 

 b) As above but local Government based + funded (eg pre-existing SSS.)

c) 'Sympathetic' University Departments


Operate a dedicated #Switch2Ecig  website+ Social Media sites with  both a) +b)+c) providing funds + personnel to establish and operate, BUT crucially involve the genuine experts :- VAPERS to help run this (try NNA and VIP, even IBVTA /ECITA for knowledgeable volunteers).

It only needs a handful of folks to operate,and potentially be a very cost effective scheme, especially as austerity measures continue to bite. Empowerment is a word frequently used...this would be a good opportunity to demonstrate just that!


E-Cigarettes are primarily a pleasurable consumer device, that have the added benefit of being a highly popular and effective aid to stopping smoking . Other aids are available, having varying effectiveness, the key to cessation success, is consumers having access to detailed accurate information, and making an informed choice of method. This blog was not intended to 'knock' SSS(many of which are under great financial pressure), rather to inform GP and interested others, of what *alternatives* currently exists for new switchers and how that could be enhanced.

As mentioned above,and as we are all aware  many local authority SSS have received massive reductions in their budgets  which politicians and NGO such as ASH and CR_UK are campaigning Central Government to address. However this is further complicated by many local authorities antipathy towards Vaping , without a wholehearted embrace of Vaping as a valid cessation method , ,they should be defunded or have their budgets slashed, as has been the case.

Why should Central Government bale out rogue councils who have decided that the advice and guidance from themselves via PHE,NCSCT, Stoptober(NHS) is ignored for ideological reasoning, to the detriment of their citizens. This commentary from LGE  (2016)is illuminating, giving a glimpse of the conflict and ignorance that exists(recently reinforced via this damning follow up survey) .

In economic terms the costs/quitter figures do not make for enthralling or edifying reading  this quotes £55,571 per quitter, although I have read estimates of £74,000 elsewhere...... naturally a price cannot be attached to a smokers life BUT surely a more radical commonsense  approach needs examining and implementing?

The solution is staring cash strapped councils in the face, what are they waiting for? All professional and responsible bodies apart from the BMA have made positive reports or commentary towards Vaping in England, surely the WHO negativity(heavily criticised) should hold zero credence!