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Everything posted by dstanners

  1. Solar Panels or Solar Energy

    I had a couple of folk around to quote for PV last week. The first quote (the one expected to be cheapest) has just arrived, and I'm struggling to see how it can be even close to cost effective. The total cost (inc Mwst) is 32k to supply and install a 14.8kwp system with wall box and battery, guaranteed for 12 years. There is a possibly 1.5k subsidy in relation to the wall box, but apparently nothing else is available. Given my electricity bill has been less than 1.5k for the last few years, even allowing for a price increase, it doesn't appear to me that PV makes economic sense, as I'd be out of guarantee with a drop off in panel/battery performance way before it had paid itself back. Am I missing a key benefit here, or is there some other sort of subsidy that they have failed to mention? I suppose the battery and wall box (combined cost just under 10k) make a difference, particularly if I change to an electric vehicle. Can't think of anything else though. Anyone else receiving similarly priced offers?    
  2. How are your cherries doing?

    Yes. I wouldn't recommend it. We boil up a sugar and water solution and pour that over cherries in jars. You then stick the glass jars on a baking tray with about 2cm of water and bake for a couple of hours. They keep for months that way, and taste fresh when you open the jars. My wife is doing it as we speak.   My demijohns are currently sterilising, so I'll be making cherry wine this afternoon which is another alternative way to "store" cherries.  
  3. What made you smile today?

    England v. NZ today: batsman caught out off the non-striker's bat: https://twitter.com/i/status/1539982449958014976
  4. How are your cherries doing?

    I've just eaten a cherry cake from cherries picked two days ago (but I ate a few last week too). Here in the Eifel, we are a good two weeks maybe even a month later than the folk nearer Cologne or Bonn. The first cherries are only just starting to turn a darker red now, which is more than sweet enough for me, but in a couple of weeks they will be even juicier.    From experience, ours are at their best for wine about now before they go too dark, and fortunately for us there is so many on our trees that there will still be plenty for eating in a few weeks.  ...oh it's a bumper year for strawberries too. Happy days.
  5. Cost of living crisis

    It is "elementary" insofar as it is straightforward, but these sorts of things are not being covered at elementary school maths lessons (at least not in the UK or Germany). The content of those lessons doesn't seem to have changed significantly since my time at school, but the marketing of financial options for buying goods and services has changed massively. There are too many people making such poor financial decisions for this to be unrelated. The basic maths lessons at schools (again, I can only speak from experience in the UK and Germany) does not equip children for key financial decisions in real life.  
  6. Cost of living crisis

    Couldn't agree more. There are too many families with too poor a grasp on basic finance to leave this to parents. Indeed, leaving this to parents is likely to cause financial inequality to increase: financially literate parents teach those skills to their kids, whilst children whose parents don't have that experience miss out at best, or more likely repeat the errors.   In addition to just "being frugal" (which is not to belittle that concept by the way), I think it is sensible and not hugely difficult to teach other finance issues based on real life examples school children could understand: what their phone contracts actually cost - i.e. that a "free" handset is actually expensive, when it is tied into a 36 month contract. The advertised finance deal on a cool-looking TV, means that in five years they'll still be paying X for the TV. Will it still look like such good value/cool in 5 years and do 5 year old TVs look cool to them today?    I've met so many adults who are in a poor financial situation because long term deals which seemed "affordable" when advertised as a weekly amount, turn to be crippling if they have any financial changes several years into the contract.   
  7. BREXIT positives and negatives

    After almost three years out of the UK, I've been back three times in the last four weeks. It really doesn't feel like "home", and everyone seems to avoid the Brexit-sized elephant in the room at all costs. At the Eurostar check-in (for which I started queueing up outside Kings Cross), they kept apologising for the delays due to the need for "extra security and covid checks". No mention that Brexit is the reason that all UK passports need to be individually checked and stamped (by outgoing UK customs as well as incoming French customs) before you've even left the country. As for Covid, you just show the app whilst waiting in the queue, so that is being added as a real red-herring.   Today we can expect to see legislation being proposed which allows the use of agency workers to break strikes, and there isn't any sort of public outcry about this. Folk in the UK (ok, perhaps not all of them) don't seem to care because they only care about their own train cancellations, and as such currently see strikes as a moaning hangover of over-indulged, lazy workers, rather than the last desperate bargaining chip to try to get management to listen. Once this change comes into force (and it looks like it will), everyone in the UK can look forward to asking their bosses for a raise. I'm sure they can enjoy realising that such request is tantamount to resigning.   I guess this race to the bottom is "levelling up".  
  8. Regulation on Dangerous Dogs

    Rules for dogs and whether they are allowed in different areas/off the lead are decided by the town and land. That said, throughout Germany, if the area is a designated public playground then almost certainly dogs are not even allowed. Some dogs (and their owners) have certain dispensations which allow them to be off the lead more often or able to be in otherwise restricted areas, subject to the dog and trainer having passed relevant tests (for example, mine is certified as a companion dog and also able to accompany hunts etc).    I don't believe the picture is sufficient to tell whether the dog is really a Staffie-mix or any other "dangerous" dog breed (that definition varies from land to land too). More importantly, the fact that its owners are prepared to sit around ignoring their dog as it growls at passers by, tells me enough to know that they clearly have never passed any of the various accreditations which could even potentially exempt them from being on a lead.    Take a video/picture of the dog (a dog is not covered by data protection rules) and report the incident to the local Ordnungsamt (not the police).
  9. Interesting spam e-mails received

    Just received this one, and it's a nice upgrade / reversal on the usual emails. Rather than asking for my help, or telling me about a stroke of good fortune, the governor of the bank of Nigeria seems to be telling me off!   How are you today?. Am writing you again categorically to know if you are receiving my mails or not.You should confirm the receipt of this message/mail and indicate if you are ready to receive your outstanding fund or not.   If you not ready to redeem it now,kindly notify me immediately so that I will close your payment file and declare the fund dormant and confiscate it. Am tired of receiving calls and messages from some people who said you sent them to redeem the fund on your behalf.   This is very important and annoying at this juncture because you haven't email me on that regards that you are sending someone to receive it on your behalf.   I look forward to hearing from you.   Mr. Godwin I. Emefiele CBN Executive Governor.
  10. Why are you happy today?

    I'm happy because these chaps are doing a great job of cutting my lawn (Eifel-style).
  11. What made you laugh today?

    The bit that amazes me, is the rather unlikely venue for the alleged trip. I could imagine media agents might drop their phone into vat of Sangria on a Marbella booze cruise, but what were they doing on a boat in the north sea? Mackerel fishing from Whitby? Drilling for oil?    
  12. BREXIT positives and negatives

    It all beggars belief. The UK decision to conclude an agreement incorporating border/trade controls between GB and NI was of course moronic. But once it was done, the issue is now solely an internal UK problem. There is no reason why the EU would want to make reopening the Brexit deal on that point a top priority. What amazed me crossing the channel this past week was that the ports in Dunkirk and Dover now have a new section for ferries direct to Ireland. Brexit has left the UK as such a basket case that it's actually easier to stick lorries on a boat near the Belgian border doing about 30 knots for 24 hours all the way to Ireland, rather than nip across the channel and drive through GB. It would be almost possible to describe the UK as being in a state of managed decline, except the word "managed" is too generous. It's sad really, but from my conversations with folk over there, there wasn't much appetite to do anything about it.  
  13. Going to France (from Germany)

    That might be good news for you, but sadly that just reminded me that back in the day, I was pulled over three times on a 5 mile trip home one evening. Each time I was issued with a 7 day wonder. Perhaps I should have made more of an effort.   Of course, when the first policeman asked me: "is this your vehicle?", I probably shouldn't have answered: "No Sherlock. I went to the pavilion car park and looked for the oldest, rustiest car I could find, and decided to drive that home". The 17 year old me was not as clever as he thought he was.      
  14. Ok, this is really short notice (I did say that I might have to go before July!), but could she make it tomorrow? I'm driving over to Reading in a van just booked on a 6pm ferry, and have plenty of room for a dog and passenger. I live in the Eifel, but could pick her up in Cologne, Aachen or Brussels (or other towns on/near that stretch) if she can make it there by midday/early afternoon tomorrow. I'm assuming she has all necessary travel document(s)/passport etc for her and also the dog (rabies vaccination and worming tablets for the dog)? I don't wish to sound uncharitable, but I hope you can understand that the offer is subject to that sort of thing being sorted in advance. If you send me a PM, I can give you my number for details.    
  15. How soon thereafter must it be? A week or so, or would she wait until the summer? I'll be driving over mid/late July (but may possibly have an earlier trip too).  
  16. garden lawns are bad

    Given it isn't strong enough for planting on the roof, could you attach some trellises to sides of the garage and let plants climb up and cover the roof? If it's in the sun, some grapes could be good. Alternatively, you could plant some willow either side, and let it arch over the roof. 
  17. garden lawns are bad

    I think that sort of article is disingenuous, insofar as it lumps together ideas of replacing lawns with artificial grass alongside using less fertiliser/irrigation. To my mind, there are two points: whether households maintain "green" outside space (yes), and whether we should use lots of water and chemicals to maintain manicured grass lawns (no).   Here in the glorious Eifel, the days of highly-manicured lawns should be numbered. Even though not too many people seem to use fertiliser on gardens, the summers are just too dry...or (to misquote from Network Rail) we get the "wrong sort" of rain: nothing for months and then enough to flood entire valleys in one day.   If folk want to get rid of grass, or where the grass would die without watering/fertilisers, the option shouldn't be to roll out plastic grass-substitutes, but to look for hardier alternatives (I like @emkay's  suggestion of clover) and let areas go wilder (great for birds and insects).   We've got an area towards the bottom of the garden which is nominally "grass" insofar as it's where my kids and their friends play football/rugby etc, but I don't water it or use any particular chemicals. Each spring I throw some new grass seed in the patchier areas (on days when I know rain is due), and it seems to work well enough.   I've also started setting the blades higher on the mower too.    
  18. Food outlet - catastrophe

    Bl00dy hell €40 on kebabs! He must have had to haggle. A few options: 1) drink more before eating. That will improve the taste. 2) if it tastes nasty, don't go back for seconds. 3) if you are happy to spend 40euros on a kebab, buy a train ticket to Cologne, and get yourself a Mangal. I had one a couple of weeks ago (boozy night out in Cologne) and was delighted by Mr Podolski's offerings. 4) if you're ever in the UK, go to any high street at 11pm and try the UK's take on a slice off the elephant's leg. Once you've tried that grey, semi-translucent muck in a warmed-up pitta (from the frozen aisle at Aldi), you'll never feel so bad about kebabs in Germany again.
  19. I've just spent the last 10 minutes or so on google trying to figure out what that is! The return sounds great in the current market, but I'm too cautious to invest in things I struggle to to understand. Good luck though.
  20. A bit of a punt, but I've just bought some more Wise shares (former transferwise) which have absolutely tanked over the last 6 months (not helped by having their centre of operations in the Baltics). They are profitable and growing. Apart from the obvious risk of being fairly close to Russia, it seems undervalued (at least, unless/until Atlantic Money gains market share). Apart from that, I'm looking to invest in a heat pump and PV for my house! 
  21. Beer bottles with flip tops (or swing tops)

    It's a fair point about buying too much stuff to start (as a few others have pointed out, the starter kits will be fine to begin with), but the crown caps won't come off if they've been put on with a capper. An even cheaper option (one I used to use as a student) would be to re-use any plastic, fizzy drinks bottles - just leave an inch at the top). Whatever option you go for, don't forget to sterilise properly. It's a real waste of time, effort and money to do all the work, and find the drink has been ruined because a bottle/keg etc wasn't properly cleaned in advance. One bit of kit which isn't always included in the starter sets but is worth considering is a hydrometer (perhaps for your 2nd or 3rd batch). It tells you the sugar content in the brew, so you know what the likely alcohol content will be the day you make it, and then a few weeks later whether the yeast has finished turning the sugar to alcohol (so you don't end up drinking a nasty, yeasty beer). Happy brewing.    
  22. Beer bottles with flip tops (or swing tops)

    Well, whilst that is a nice way to try a whole load of different beers (and I can recommend Peters Koelsch for a flip top bottled beer if you can get it that far south), for bottling homebrew you'd be far better off buying yourself a crown capper (for about £15 on Amazon) and some crown caps (cost about £5 for 100) then you can use any bottles you like. Even though they may appear resealable, the seal on flip top beers perishes quite easily and you'll end up needing to throw away a few of the bottles you have re-used. Again, from experience, whichever route you take, don't forget to sterilise the bottles as soon as you've finished the beer. A few years back I decided to collect a few crates' worth of flip tops for homebrewing, and intended to sterilise them all in one go. I just couldn't get the mould out of the ones I'd finished first, even though I'd given them a bit of a rinse after drinking. 
  23. Depositing foreign currency into a German account

    Hmm, usually when I see messages like that those "friends" tend to be referred to as Nigerian princes rather than refugees, so assuming this is actually a legitimate question, a key point to note is that banks are unlikely to be the cheapest way to exchange currencies. Currency matching services like wise.com (formerly Transferwise) are far cheaper.    
  24. Advice needed re UK toilet plumbing issue

    I think that would be a long way down the problem checking list! It really wouldn't surprise me if your outlet pipe was just full of rusty old sludge. Sentinel/Fernox type products are easy to use and would clear those sort of blockages: in any event, it's a £20/30 purchase which wouldn't cause any harm to your system even if it wasn't the solution to all of the problems. Assuming you aren't in the UK at present, ask your agent to do it...or better still (what I do with some properties in the UK), stop using agencies altogether and find a local handyman.
  25. Advice needed re UK toilet plumbing issue

    I'm not a professional plumber either, but plumb in my own toilets etc. I assume it is your header tank (typical UK set-up of the one in the loft which uses gravity to supply pressure for water in the bathroom(s) below) which is leaking? As @snowingagain mentioned, the ballcock valve (or other float mechanism) should stop it overflowing. If that isn't doing the trick, then the water would be going down the outlet pipe and/or overflowing. Check the outlet pipe isn't blocked: that could cause both the leak from the tank and the slow filling cistern. A blockage in the header tank could be something daft like a dead pigeon in the tank, but more likely just a build up of sludge. Chuck a bottle of Sentinel x400 or similar into the system (sold in any DIY store) which will clean the pipes.  A ballcock valve is cheap (from Screwfix/Toolstation) and easy to replace - just turn off the water at the mains, remove the feed pipe and replace the valve.  As for the toilet cistern, well they can wear-out/stick etc, but by the time you've paid someone to take it apart and check, you might just as well get them to fit a new one (in fact, a whole new toilet can be picked up from Screwfix/Toolstation for about £50).