Archive for the ‘Spain’ Category

What’s a suitable subject for a really big photographic enlargement?

These days there’s really no excuse if you’re using simple wallpaper that everyone else has to decorate your home.

How much better to display a selection of your own photographs instead? You’ve probably not thought about that before as the normal commercial photographic printers just cater for the typical album size prints and don’t have the equipment to produce a trully impressive work of art for your wall from your photographs.

However, you don’t need to limit yourself to the photographic shop round the corner these days as it’s very easy to transfer a photograph to a printer anywhere. Not only does this open up the possibility of much larger prints but you’ve also the option of printing on various types of “paper” from the usual glossy (not really suitable for large scale photos) through to canvas if you’d like an almost painting like quality to your print.

Particularly for the larger sizes, printing photograph on canvas is really the only way to go. If your image is from a compact digital camera more than a year or two old then it’ll go “blocky” on normal photographic paper if you try to run off a print at the larger sizes but on canvas this disappears into the texture of the material you’re getting it printed on.

What about the subject for your photo? That depends on you. I’m quite taken with this photo that I took of Cordoba and I’ve a heap of similar scenic photos from that particular trip. On the other hand, all scenes would make for a dull home I suspect and it’s probably best to mix them up with photos of the kids and so on. One thing to watch on the landscape photos is that if you’re not careful they can date quite quickly if you’ve included people in them as dress styles change surprisingly quickly sometimes (unless the people are in native dress of course).

Last, but not least, don’t forget that you can update the photos now and again too.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

So another 100 billion euro was placed on “euro to win”

That’s the problem with the euro situation at the moment: it really is placing a bet on it surviving.

Spain is being given another 100 billion to bet on it’s banking system surviving the crisis. Greece, unless they elect a far left or right government, will probably be given a similar amount to bet on it’s banking system and not too long from now Italy and Portugal will follow with equally large bets.

All this is just fine if the bets win. If they don’t that money will need replaced and the amount remaining in the kitty will be rather low at that point. Moreover, if the bets don’t win there’ll be a whole bunch of real-world things needing financing at the same time that the bets are written off which is a nightmare scenario for everyone in Europe and none too good for anyone anywhere else for that matter.

Either way, it would appear that we’re in for an interesting second half of 2012.


Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Exit Banco Halifax Hispania, enter Lloyds Bank International

In many ways this is, for once, an improvement for the customers of the former Halifax but it comes with downsides too.

The range of products on offer is significantly improved with the addition of both a proper Visa card in addition to the existing Visa Electron (which remains the default card issued) and a multi-currency sterling account and a lot more branches in Spain. It’s as clear as mud but the need to keep a balance of 600€ for free banking seems to have disappeared albeit with the downside that there’s now a charge of 9€ per year for the Electron card regardless of balance (replacing the previous 18€ for balances under 600€); it’s 15€ a year for the full Visa debit card.

Probably the biggest downside is that the free transfers from Halifax UK to Halifax Hispania have disappeared so it’s probably a good time to get yourself one of the free FairFX cards and thereby get back your free currency conversions. For free cash withdrawals you can get the CaxtonFX card though their exchange rates aren’t so good therefore it’s probably best to get both cards if you’re living in Spain.

One big difference is in the list of charges. Replacing the Halifax’s previously very clear and short list is a massive 60 page document from Lloyds that throws clarity out the window. It’s certainly complete but I question whether they couldn’t have produced a much simpler and shorter document for normal customers instead of the monster which seems to cover all possibilities from normal people through to major corporate banking.

Overall, I suspect that, for a change, this amalgamation of the Halifax and Lloyds TSB in Spain is probably a good thing for their customers. You can get the freebie currency transfers elsewhere and it frees up the 600€ that was tied up previously to get the free banking, albeit with the downside that you need to fork out 9€ a year.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

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So how bad might the economy be…?

I came across a rather comprehensive take on how bad things are in the Spanish economy which makes for some interesting, if long, reading.

Spain is one of those places that hasn’t, yet, featured on the news in terms of problems with their banks which is surprising in some ways as it’s not a country that one would ordinarily consider as having strong banks. However, that’s misleading as the countries with the supposedly strong banks have nearly all run into trouble by now but largely because that strength enabled them to start operating on the international stage and thereby pick up problems that they’d not have gotten had they stuck to their domestic market.

Spain is different in that, for the most part, the banks seem to have acted to pull money into the country but that has created something of a problem since, as the article points out, it has created a climate where there’s been a little too much money knocking around. The problem in Spains case is that the developers have used that money to build far too many houses and now find themselves with a rapidly increasing stock of unsold houses.

The solution? Well, the developers would like more money to build even more houses but that glut of houses means that prices are falling rapidly in reality although that doesn’t show up in official statistics as those are based on estimates of the value of the houses rather than what they’re actually selling for. As elsewhere, the list prices of those houses bears little reality to the price at which they are really selling for and therefore it’s very difficult to get a clear picture of what’s really happening. Despite that, it appears that the fall of 50% or so the previous year will be followed by yet more falls to come.

That continued falling of prices spells trouble for the builders. In accounting terms, they’re presently holding them as trading stock but the falls are forcing them to reconsider them as assets for sale. That might satisfy the accountants but unperforming assets are no good to anyone and, of course, they can’t sell them. Nor can they reduce the prices by as much as normal people could because they’d then be into potentially serious losses.

In fact the solution seems to be to let a significant proportion of the developers go bankrupt and reduce building to more normal levels thus letting the stock of unsold homes find buyers. Not an easy solution but then if, as seems likely, we’re heading into a depression rather than a recession then no solution is going to be an easy one… last time around it took WW2 to get us out of it.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Why is it that the diesel in Spain lasts longer than the diesel in France?

One thing that constantly confuses is that whenever we have a trip to Spain the diesel that we’ve bought there seems to last considerably longer than when the diesel that we ordinarily buy in France.

A LOT longer too. For example, we filled the car up Friday a week ago in Spain, have been running around quite a bit during the week and only needed to get some more last Friday. Ordinarily we’d have been expecting to top up at least once during the week.

Weird, huh?

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.