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Rick Lomas and The Whole World

Why would you live in Solihull?

Solihull has derived its name from “soily hill” which is the location of the oldest church in the town, the St. Alphege. This small town situated in the West Midlands County in the U.K has been in existence since the medieval times. Through the years it has grown steadily from a small market town into being the quiet, respectable neighbourhood it is today. It has just over two hundred thousand residents, commonly known as the Silhillians, and has been rated top amongst the ten best places to live in the whole of the UK; no small achievement.

There are several factors that make living in Solihull such an enviable place of abode. The cost of living in this West Midlands town is relatively good, the employment rates are higher and the incomes are also higher than the national average. The life expectancy is subsequently higher (81 years old for men and 84 years old for women). The benefits of living upcountry are also available, combined with a quiet urban setting in Solihull; the kind of life many envy and desire.

Education

There are a host of local junior and elementary schools which serve the children of Solihull with the necessary education. There are several universities in close proximity to Solihull but none in the town itself. There is however Solihull College located in the town. We also have the Solihull Sixth Form College for those who do not fancy leaving town to further their education. In case you choose to live here, it is a guarantee that your children will get the best in education from the dedicated teachers in the local schools.

Space

Renting a place to live in is no huge hassle in Solihull. Accommodation is relatively affordable and available; a six bedroom house in Solihull can be bought for the same amount you would spend renting a small flat in parts of London. There are many real estate boulevard developments at close proximity to the town centre, available to let and for sale too.

The fact that the town began hundreds of years back means that there are tons of classical architectural developments from back then. One with an eye for older properties will fancy living here. Of late, many celebrities have bought up real estate developments in Solihull so as to live there.

Working

Finding employment in Solihull is also not a daunting task especially if you possess the correct type of skills and qualifications. Employment rates in this small town are high by comparison, which makes life easy and largely manageable.

Jobs available range from all service provision jobs to sales, civil service, labour, management and consultancy; the list is endless. Additionally, there are prospects of starting a small business in the work area of your choice. There is a substantial amount of office and business premise space in the town centre which is available to let.

The average disposable income for a single family in Solihull is much higher than most areas in the UK. It can be around 25% higher per head than other areas of the country.

Leisure and recreation

In Solihull you’ll find tons of things to do for fun. Foremost, the parks in this small yet beautiful town have been around for decades; they are well maintained and give you brilliant views of the vast country. The parks are themselves a beautiful sight to behold and savour.

Solihull is also home to the Land Rover. You might want to visit their site to find out exactly how they do things especially if you are a first time visitor to Solihull. You will also find a John Lewis outlet in Solihull and several excellent areas for shopping. There also are several sport centres and gyms, dance studios, cafes, saunas, swimming pools, bars, tennis courts, ice skating clubs, health clubs and restaurants to mention but a few. The shopping centre (known as the Mell square) at Solihull is awash with many other leisure activities for you to sample and enjoy.

If you want to explore the rest of the country, Solihull is not a bad place to start from. Solihull is well connected to the major motorways of England. This probably explains why there are so many campervan and motorhome owners in Solihull. The owner of MotorhomeFreedom.com who have motorhomes for hire in the West Midlands, said “The most popular area in the UK for motorhomes seems to be the North East of England, but this is closely followed by The Midlands and in particular, Solihull”.

Infrastructure and amenities

Road networks have been improved over time by the West Midlands County council local authority. The pedestrian areas have received upgrades time and again over the years and new link roads have been introduced with time as the need has arisen. Road is the main form of transport infrastructure within Solihull, but there also is a railway station in Solihull which is severed by local and national services. The streets are well lit and bear adequate walkway space for pedestrians and parking spaces for car drivers. Hospitals, clinics, churches, assembly halls and every other social amenity you would expect in a town centre setup are available in Solihull.  In fact it is an extremely tolerant and multicultural society; diverse and homely are two words which spring to mind immediately.

Accessibility

A railway network connects Solihull to Birmingham, Oxford, London and just about every major city you can think of. There also is a road network connecting the town to the rest of the country and hence accessibility is not a problem at all. Air transport to Solihull is not possible in a direct manner; however there are airports in London and Birmingham which serve the area extremely well.

Environment

There is a reason why Solihull is referred to as the town in the country. This is because it has a feel of the country despite being an urban centre. Lush mountainous landscapes offer a backdrop for the town. It is a lovely site to behold. The classical architectural styles in the town are reminiscent of the medieval times when the town was established. Natural materials such as brick and stone, which are often unfinished in paint, give the town an authentic and classy feel. It is a neat, clean place with proper urban planning. For those working and living in Solihull they find this environment is one that is extremely conducive to maintaining a happy relaxing lifestyle.  Solihull is a delightful place; one which we cannot recommend highly enough to you!

Sport in Solihull

Whether you prefer to take part in sport, watch it live on television or in person, Solihull has a wealth of options available to you.

In terms of participating in sport, the website solihullactive.co.uk is a great resource for everything sports related in the area.  So if you fancy a go at netball, running, walking, fitness courses, or you are a disabled athlete, there really is something for everyone.

For youngsters, who take their sport as seriously as their studies, Solihull School is the place to be.  Boasting a selection of great facilities, covering Rugby, Hockey, Cricket, Netball, Swimming and much more, as a young person growing up in the area, the school is the ideal location for young sports enthusiasts.

If football is your passion, look no further than Solihull FC.  Founded in 1997, Solihull FC has a range of teams, covering a wide span of age groups, starting from under 6’s.  Therefore, if you have a child eager to become the next Lionel Messi, Solihull FC are more than happy to have them onboard.

Sticking with football, the merger of Moor Green and Solihull Borough, has led to the creation of Solihull Moors FC.  Competing in the National North League, the team play all their home matches at the The Automated Technology Group Stadium, with tickets available from just £10.  There are also a number of amateur adult teams throughout the area, meaning the opportunity to play and watch local football is widespread.

If playing Tennis, Squash, Cricket, Racketball, Hockey and Bowls is more your thing, then West Warwickshire Sports Club is the place for you.  A great multi-sport facility in Solihull, the West Warwickshire Sports Club is a community based venture that not only offers the sports listed above but includes fitness suites and a brand new club house, open for all members to enjoy.

If that is all bit mundane for your liking, there is always the Combat Sports Centre, offering boxing, kick-boxing and cage fighting classes for all ages and abilities.

Another venue offering the chance to both play and watch great sport, is the Solihull Sports and Social Club.  With a football pitch, cricket field, bowling green, snooker room and darts board, the club is the perfect venue for a good game before moving to the bar and lounge area for a drink.

Furthermore, if watching live sport is your thing, there is a choice of pubs, including the Masons Arms and the Acres Pub, both combining drinks, food and live, big screen sporting action.

Therefore, it’s safe to say, whether participating in sport, watching sport or a mixture of both is what you enjoy, Solihull has something for everyone.

It’s not just the Mediterranean Sea you know?

The Medditerranean Sea and the Subdivisions

The Medditerranean Sea and the Subdivisions

It wasn’t until I started thinking about an Italian holiday this summer that I realised that different parts of what I thought was just the Mediterranean Sea have different names. Our final destination is Pietra Ligure which is on the Ligurian Sea. I am going to publish a write up in the motorhome rentals section of MotorhomeFreedom.com when I get back so do look over there towards the end of 2014 for some photos, videos etc. It’s true that on a holiday in Rhodes many years ago I was aware than on the east side of the island was the Mediterranean Sea and on the west side was the Aegean Sea, but I didn’t think that much about it to be honest. I was however aware that the two seas looked different though. One day we went down to the most southern point of Rhodes to a lovely place called Prassonissi.

Prassonissi is a small island which is connected by a strip of sand to Rhodes in the summer time when the water levels are low. When Prassonissi becomes a Peninsula rather than island it becomes a haven for windsurfers and sunbathers. Having the sea on either side of the beach is wonderful. The day I was there the Mediterranean was as flat as pond with people swimming, suba diving and generally having a superb beach holiday. On the other side of the beach is the Aegean Sea that was rough and choppy with the windsurfers having a fantastic time. So what are these other ‘seas’ then? Well they are actually subdivisions of the Mediterranean Sea according to the IHO which is the Internation Hydrographic Organization. So let’s look at them starting at the very west of the Meditteranean.

The Strait of Gibraltar

Between The Rock of Gibraltar (which is actually crown property of the UK) and Morocco is a small strait of water which is just less than nine miles wide at its narrowest point. It is very important shipping route between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. The Strait of Gibraltar extends slightly to the west where it meets the Atlantic.

The Alboran Sea

Between Spain and Morocco to the east of the Strait of Gibraltar is the Alboran Sea. The Alboran sea has the biggest population of bottlenose dolphins in the western Mediterranean.

The Balearic Sea

Between mainland Spain and the Balearic Islands of Mallorca, Ibiza, Minorca and Formentera is the Balearic Sea. This is one of my favourite parts of the World and definitely my favourite part of Spain.

The Ligurian Sea

North of Corsica, between Corsica and Italy is the Ligurian Sea. This is the sea that prompted me to write this article as I am going to Liguria this summer on my motorhome holiday.

The Tyrrhenian Sea

The Tyrrhenian Sea is somewhere I really want to go! It’s enclosed by Sardinia, the Italian peninsula and the island of Sicily. If you are into your volcanoes like me, this is the place to go. You will be able to see Stromboli and of course the magnificent Etna. A stunning part of the World, but sadly just a little too far for this summer’s trip.

The Ionian Sea

This is between Italy, Albania and Greece. This is the part of the Mediterranean that is underneath the ‘foot’ of Italy

The Adriatic Sea

This is the almost rectangular area between Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Albania. The only one of these countries that I have visited so far is Italy. I have yet to explore the east coast of Italy, so this will be a fun adventure for the future. At the moment I am tied to school holidays and I have been told that July and August is NOT the time to go, unless you love crowded beaches!

The Aegean Sea

The Aegean Sea is between Greece and Turkey and possibly my favourite part of the Mediterranean. I have loved ever single Greek island I have ever been to and a sunset across the Aegean has never disappointed me.

Happy Holidays!

Chinese Smartphones

in Technology

My first Chinese smartphone was a Sweez, which to be honest was pretty poor. Shortly after I got the Sweez, I bought an Elephone P8000 which was fantastic. My daughter has a Doogee X5 which is a perfect phone for a 12 year old.

I’m not a gamer at all, but I appreciate phones that have a smooth interface so speed is important. The most important metric for me is battery life, so I tend to ignore any phones with anything less than a 4000mAh battery. As I’m always looking for these large battery phones, the fast 2A charging is also a necessity.

Most smartphones from China are dual SIM. I really like this feature as I tend to use my UK GiffGaff SIM card simultaneously with my French free.fr SIM. I’ve noticed these days that the trend seems to be to have the dual SIM/TF card hybrid tray to hold the SIM card. What this means is that you can either have 2 SIM cards or 1 SIM+TF card (MicroSD card). I’m not a fan of these hybrid trays, I prefer the set up on my Elephone P8000. The Elephone P8000 has 2 micro SIM card slots and a microSD card slot. This means that I can have both numbers active and be able to back the phone up to the microSD card. Sadly this setup doesn’t seem to be as popular with most phones that have come on the market since 2016.

Although my beloved Elephone P8000 seems to be exactly what I want I can’t help looking at what else is out there. In particular I would like a phone that runs on at least Android 6.0. The Elephone P8000 is now discontinued but I believe you can flash the ROM to upgrade it to Android 6.0, I haven’t tried this. I would prefer to wait for an ‘Over The Air’ (OTA) upgrade from Elephone, but I’m not sure if this will ever happen. The P8000’s successor the P9000 doesn’t seem quite as good to me. There are lots of improvements on the Elephone P9000 but the battery is smaller and the dual SIM tray is the hybrid type. I also worry slightly as a friend bought an Elephone P9000 Lite and the earpiece volume seems unusally quiet. This may be a hardware fault that can easily be fixed, but even so it has slightly put me off this model at present.

There’s always a bit of risk in buying direct from China, but I’ve never had a problem myself. One question many people ask is “How much is delivery from China?”, well in most cases it is free to anywhere in The World. The compromise here is time, it can easily take a month for your phone to arrive and sometimes it feels like it will never arrive! I’ve generally recieved any tech goods ordered from China within 3 to 5 weeks. Here are some of the phones that interest me at the moment:

Elephone P8000

Elephone P8000

Elephone P8000 – discontinued, but I still love it

This is my current phone but it is discontinued now. I would highly recommend getting one of these if you can pick one up cheaply. Please bear in mind that the only OTA upgrade available at the moment is for Android 5.1 Lollipop, it is rumoured that there will be an upgrade to Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but at the moment I am not convinced. If you still want one, you can get old stock from Amazon UK.

Bluboo Maya Max

Bluboo Maya Max

Bluboo Maya Max

This is a BIG phone with a 6 inch screen. From the reviews I have seen this phone it seems really good. Even though the screen isn’t particularly high resolution everybody seems to remark that it looks really good. It is however HD at 1280×720 pixels, which would have been unheard of a few years ago. The modest resolution helps the battery life too which is excellent. Another thing I really like is that the Bluboo Maya Max comes with Corning Gorilla Glass 4. There are videos on YouTube with people driving cars over this phone and hitting it with hammers. I think this sort of behaviour is insane, but if it will withstand a drop from pocket to floor that will do me. Here are some of the excellent features of the phone:

  • 6.0 screen with Gorilla Glass 4,HD 1280×720 pixels
  • MTK6750 Octa Core 1.5 GHz GPU: ARM Mali-T860 MP2 350MHz
  • Android 6.0 OS , 3GB RAM + 32GB ROM, can extend to 64GB with a microSD card
  • Dual Micro SIM cards:  2 x Micro SIM or MicroSD Card+Micro SIM
  • 5.0MP front selfie camera, 13.0MP AF Sony IMX214 Sensor back camera with LED flash and auto focus
  • Huge Sony 4200mAh Li-polymer Battery, 4.35V Battery Core, Quick-charge
  • Support FDD LTE/4G/3G/GPS/Wifi/Bluetooth/Type-C/VoLTE/Touch ID
  • 2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
  • 3G: WCDMA 850/2100MHz
  • 4G: FDD-LTE 800/1800/2100/2600MHz

This looks like a great phone and at the time of writing this (November 2016) you can pick this up on GeekBuying.com for $149.99. I’m very tempted to get one of these and hand my Elephone P8000 onto my wife.

Blackview BV6000

Blackview BV6000

Blackview BV6000

I’ve been admiring these Blackview phones for quite a while now. I always think it is odd how manufacturers make such beautiful phones like the Samsung S7 Edge, but then to keep them nice you put them in a big ugly case. Blackview have bypassed this part and just made the phone itself very rugged. The only reason I haven’t got one of these is that the screen size is a bit smaller than what I am used to. Like most people these days, the old fashioned ‘phone function’ is really a secondary function for me. I spend most of my time looking at the screen, rather than using it as a phone, so screen size is important. The screen is HD though at 1280×720. I’m also not the kind of person that takes my phone with me when I’m on the beach, mountain biking or rock climbing. I really don’t need to be connected to the rest of The World all the time, so if I don’t need my phone it stays at home or in the car. For the outdoor types this is the perfect phone though, especially as it is IP68 waterproof.

Here are the features of this phone:

  • 4.7 inch HD 1280×720 IPS screen with Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • IP68 Waterproof, bumps resistant and scratch resistant
  • Helio P10 MTK6755 Octa Core Cortex A53 2.0GHz, GPU: ARM Mali-T860 MP2 700MHz
  • Android 6.0 OS Marshmallow, 3GB RAM + 32GB ROM, can extend to 64GB via MicroSD card
  • Dual sim dual standby
  • 4500mAh battery, CNC metal frame, NFC, fast charge
  • Atmosphere pressure sensor, GPS+GLONASS
  • Dual cameras, 5.0MP front camera, 13.0MP back camera with flash and auto focus
  • Support FDD LTE/4G/3G/GPS/Bluetooth/OTG
  • Networking:2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz, 3GWCDMA 900/1900/2100MHz, 4G: FDD LTE: 800/1800/2100/2600MHz

This is a phone I would really like, if it had a 5.5 inch screen and Corning Gorilla Glass 4, rather than 3, I’d definitely go for it.

Xiaomi Redmi 4

Xiaomi Redmi 4

Xiaomi Redmi 4

The Xiaomi Redmi 4 was released at the beginning of November 2016. The Xiaomi phone has a large 4000mA battery and improves on a few features of the Xiaomi Redmi 3. The phone comes in 3 different models: the budget Xiaomi Redmi 4A and the top specification Xiaomi Redmi 4 Pro. The Redmi 4A doesn’t interest me as it has a smaller battery, but the Redmi 4 Pro is attractive with its larger memory. All these phones feature 2.5D glass, which isn’t actually curved, but has a curved edge which gives a premium quality feel without being too expensive to manufacture. To be honest I really don’t care about this sort of cosmetic detail, but if it is important to you, fair enough. Here are the Xiaomi Redmi 4 specifications:

  • 5.0 inch creen, 2.5D curved glass, HD 1280×720 pixels
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 Octa Core 1.4GHz, Adreno 505,450MHz graphics chip
  • MIUI 8 based on Android 6.0 OS
  • 2GB RAM, 16GB ROM, expandable memory up to 128GB with microSD
  • Dual SIM (Micro + Nano / microSD)
  • 13MP rear camera with PDAF, LED Flash, f/2.2 aperture, 1080p video recording
  • 5MP front facing selfie camera, f/2.2 aperture
  • 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS + GLONASS, touch ID, Miracast
  • fast charge
  • 4000mAh battery / 4100mAh (typical),metal body
  • 2G GSM: 850/900/1800/1900MHz;
  • 3G WCDMA: 850/900/1900/2100MHz;
  • 4G FDD-LTE: 1800/2100/2600MHz, TDD-LTE (B38/B39/B40/B41: 2555-2655MHz)

Overall the main appeal about this phone is the fact that it is very new. There are some very tempting offers around at the moment, but I think I would prefer to pay extra for the Xiaomi Redmi 4 Pro to get the 32Gb of built in memory. At the moment this phone is shipping with Android 6.0, so the big question is…will this have an OTA upgrade to Android 7.0 Nougat? I hope so and if I knew this for sure I would order one of these phones straightaway.

 

Weight Watchers Loss Week 6This wasn’t my best week. I actually had a sneaky weigh on Monday and found I had gone up a little bit since my weigh in day, Friday. I started to panic a little bit so went a bit easy on everything and by Friday I had lost just 0.4kg. This is the smallest weekly amount I have lost so far, but hey – I still lost weight. I’m not entirely sure why this happened, but I do know I have been doing a lot of computer work which means that I’ve not been as active as I could have been. As usual I’ve probably been glugging a few too many red wines of an evening too, which is a habit I’m finding very hard to break. As the nights are getting longer and colder I can’t really think of anything else nicer than sitting in front of a warm fire with a glass of rouge in my hand.

Some things have occurred to me as I enter my eight week of Weight Watchers:

  • I’m now eating hardly any bread, may be four or fives slices a week
  • I’m eating tons more vegetables than I ever did – as a family we are easily eating 2kg of carrots a week!
  • My Spiralizer that I bought last week means that I am no longer eating pasta, I’m preferring ‘courgetti’ or sweet potato noodles instead
  • I am not snacking at all
  • I will do things like have an orange for breakfast if I know I’m going to have something large later in the day
  • Most yogurt is really not very good for you – for example a 125ml pot of Activia Prune yogurt has 15.5g of sugar in it, which is 6 SmartPoints!

Overall I think my general habits have got really good now, I’m really thinking about everything that goes inside me, so no nibbling or picking. I’m still drinking too much wine, but I think that will probably calm down as I get nearer my goal weight.

Weight Watchers Loss Week 6Well this is cool, every Friday I get on the scales and I’m kind of expecting to have lost about a kilogram. It’s usually more than that and in fact my average loss is currently 1.27kg per week. I’ve still got 12.4kg to go until I reach my goal. At this rate that would be 12.4/1.27=9.8 weeks until my goal weight of 70kg. This comes out as Friday December 9th, 2016. If this happens I will be amazed as at first I thought it was realistic to reach my goal by my birthday in April, then I thought New Year might be achievable, then Christmas and now I’m thinking that the start of the ski season might be feasible!

This last has been a very difficult one emotionally as my wife was hospitalised with a very serious illness. My usual temptation in situations like this is to drink copious amounts of alcohol and wallow in sadness. However, this time I decided that I owe it to my wife and children to be a strong and healthy Dad/Husband for them as they are certainly going to need me to be on the ball both mentally and physically. This makes the Weight Watchers plan even more important to me.

This week I decided to invest in a spiralizer for my fruit and veg. I bought this model from Inspiralized which seems to do the job very well. Courgetti – noodles made from courgettes – now feature a lot in my diet as a pasta substitute. I’ve also been spiralizing carrots and sweet potato too. I don’t think I have ever bought a sweet potato in my life, so that’s a new veg introduced into my diet already. The real joy of a spiralizer is that it can make food look much bigger than it really is, so psychologically you get satisfied quickly even though you are only eating mostly vegetables.