How to avoid paying customs duty on Christmas gifts between the UK and Europe.

Frustration due to new customs rules.

What is the problem?

It is now much more complicated to send and receive good between the UK and the rest of Europe.   Britain is no longer in the customs union which leads to a very big increase in red tape and costs. The text below is harvested from forums and Facebook discussions.

Examples of problems?

I’ve just had to pay customs duty of 21% on a second hand book from the UK after a ten week delay in its delivery. I calculated this from the declared value that the Spanish customs  had converted to Euros, then added 4.50 admin costs then IVA at 21% on top of that. I now read that IVA on books was reduced to 4% last year and I also thought that books were free of any duty.

…. My daughters Christmas parcel to us posted air freight ( two to three says delivery quoted) December 16 with well known courier finally arrived today post Brexit. Customs would not release it until! 116 euros charges paid on parcel containing 152 pounds in gifts. The delivery company have refused to reimburse! Thanks Brexit!.

We have stopped people sending from U.K. after last parcel a gift, took two months to clear customs and cost us €42 .

Hi again – still waiting for a parcel sent from UK to Spain on Jan 11th – says stuck in customs – desperate for parcel as start new job on Tuesday

I recently ordered frames for glasses which came from a company outside of the EU (I did not realise that at the time). They had demo lenses only and I will have to have prescription lenses fitted here in Spain. The frames were very expensive… €250. To my horror, I have now been charged €87 for customs fees and duty which I had to pay before they would be released to me. This seems an incredible amount to pay for customs fees… 35% of the value of the item. Is this normal?

The solution to the problem?

Although most of us don’t like Amazon for treating their workers badly and not paying hardly any  taxes the solution is to just go to a website in the destination country.



To send Christmas cards to any country in the world use companies like moonpig. They send them within the destination country thus avoiding customs. Click here to go to moonpig

Pretending to be be where you aren’t using VPN
Sometimes websites don’t allow you to do certain things if your ip address indicates that you are in certain countries. The best way around this is to use a VPN. It has other advantages such as being able to to watch TV in other countries. EG BBC Iplayer or different versions of netflix.   I use Pure VPN. It works very well. I sign up for the 5 year option and it works out very cheap.
Click here to go the the PURE VPN page.

Note: Most of the links in this page have affiliate tracking codes.  In theory I will get commission if you buy anything. However in reality most affiliate programs find ways of not actually paying anything out.


Filling up with Petrol in the UK

The shortage of lorry drivers in the UK has made it much more difficult to obtain petrol in the UK and some people have resorted to extreme measures.

Is Amazon Affilate Program a Waste of Time – Amazon Review

Is the Amazon affiliate program a waste of time ?

I signed up to the Amazon affilate program in 1997.  I am probably one of their most long lived affilliates. Right at the start  the affilate program was excellent, Amazon were still a young company who were not a household name.  Their strategy in those days was to become known and to get as many people to sign up as possible. I remember one Christmas maybe around 1999 when I got a bonus of $2000 for getting new customers to sign up. The bonus was so generous I even got some friends to sign up to Amazon to buy a book and I would pay them for the book.  Amazon afilliate program was the first way just a normal person could publish content and earn some extra cash. This was before blogging and You tube.  Right at the start I would regularly earn over $1000 per month.  I must have sold millions of dollars worth of books and other merchandise on Amazon.

At the time that Amazon was paying out well I had loads of content with Amazon links, book reviews, articles about things that could be bought on Amazon.  A lot of this content still exists on my websites.   This is how I have up to date stats on the Amazon affiliate program.  Many years ago lots of websites had bookshops and many links to Amazon.

Alas, the Amazon bounty years did not last. They because a household name and do not really need afilliates and now pay peanuts.  The income has gone down over the years and it is now derisory.  I still have some content with links to Amazon.  I just logged into Amazon to see how much I have earned this year.  It is now December 16th 2017.

Below is a screen shot of the stats for this year.  (you might have to click on it to see it better)  As you can see  (in 2017) I have sent them 4052 clicks and earned $8.66.  I have just searched internet for the average click through rate on links. It seems that 1% (one in every 100) is a good average.  So my 4052 clicks represents about 405 200 page impressions.  Do you know how difficult it is to get 405 200 page impressions? If that was views of a youtube channel that would earn about $400.  On google adsense that could earn about $500.  Compare that with $8.66 So my friends, in my opinion the Amazon affilate program is a total waste of time and if anyone leaves your site by clicking on a link to Amazon it will almost certainly be a loss of revenue. I am sure that Amazon do not really give a toss if  affilliates exist or not.   They have already won the household name battle.

Amazon Afilliate Program Stats.
Amazon Afilliate Program Stats.

It is no surprise that something that was profitable in the past becomes a waste of time in the present.  Apparently 70% of all jobs that exist now will be taken over by computers or robots within 10 years.  Why am I even bothering to write this article. The google ads on this article will probably take 10 years to make 20 euros if I am lucky.

Are we all doomed to earn nothing while people like Jess Bezos and Mark Zukerberg wallow in stupendous wealth?

Every morning I read the Guardian on my smartphone. They ask for a donation but I never pay anything.

The news is all about Brexit and Trump.

Are we all doomed?


Is the afilliate program any good?

Review of the Affiliate Partner Program affilate review


When internet first because widely used, which was around the year 2000, most hotels did not have their own website and for most people the only way to book a hotel was to go to a travel agent. The travel agents would look up the hotel information on special databases such as “sabre” and another one which a I can’t remember and make the booking for you in their office.  I remember going to Thomas Cook travel agent in the 80s and this was the modus operandi. After spending 20 minutes with a “nice man” you would leave the Thomas Cook office clutching your “Traveller’s Cheques” and details of your hotel bookings along with your tickets for a “Charter Flight” which was supposedly a cheap option, this would cost about 10 times what it would cost today (2017).  Here I must admit to lying, until 1991 I never stayed in a hotel, I would sleep in fields or under motorway bridges if I was  hitch-hiking. started in 1996 but it took them until about 2005 to become a massive worldwide company. They now have over  1 million properties worldwide and they are now a household name synonymous with hotel bookings. The same as Facebook or  their predecessor Friends United are associated with social media.

Ways of advertising a hotel pre-internet

Since 1998 I have been the webmaster of some reasonably well visited travel websites. To try to monetize these sites I signed up to the affiliate program, this was in 2007.

In order to get commission from a link it is necessary for the web surfer (us) to click on a link and then  go  immediately to book a hotel or in other words the web surfer has to book a hotel in the same session.  The cookie expires as soon as the user closes the browser.

The next paragraph is boring unless you have a travel website. It basically says that all newspapers or travel websites would have to close down if they relied for their income on the affiliate system.

Since 2007 I have sent 3039 clicks. This has resulted in 73 bookings which has earned 668 euros.  That is 21 euro cents per click. Nowadays 21 cents per click is not too bad. The  click-through rate is about 1 click per 500 impressions. So that means that the earning per 1000 impressions is about 10 cents.  That would mean that a page with 1 million views per day could earn  around 100 euros per day. My average google Adsense earnings are around 160 cents per 1000 views so the is 16 times less effective than Adsense. It may well be better to just put google Adsense ads on relevant content rather than using the affiliate system.  On the Wikipedia page is says that booking dot-com spent around $40 million on adwords in 2011. (Who gave Wikimedia that statistic?)  By the way anyone who uses adwords is not allowed to publicly discuss this?

On the affiliate site it makes it look like the percentage comission is 25%. It is actually 2.2%. I just booked a hotel for a family for 1 night. The cost of the one night was 180 euros. themselves charge hotels 15%.

I recently tried their new responsive search box widget. The results are disappointing. I gave the search box 11646 impressions which resulted in 22 clicks, zero bookings and zero income.  I eventually deleted search box widget after 32 000 impressions with zero income. the See image below.

It would be much more lucrative to come to arrangements directly with  hotels to get a commission directly. charge the hotels 15%, they give you 25% of that which is actually 3.75% comision.  However, if you don’t want the hassle of dealing directly with hotels it may earn you a very small residual income. If the income was better I would give them more prominence.

Hotels themselves have let themselves be ruled by In one way you can consider this a good thing. Beforehand most hotels had a chaotic booking system  based on school exercise books with pencil ruled lines which contained all the booking information of their bookings and availability. offered a free system to coordinate all the bookings, prices and availability and in some ways provided a more level playing field. This has also been very attractive to the consumer. The advent of feedback pioneered by “Trip Advisor” has resulted in a system which favours the “guest”.

However, in my opinion the story is not yet over. Hotels etc do not really need a third-party such as to control them.

Someone will eventually offer a centralised source of information, prices and availability about hotels which hotels can buy into. The rate of commission will be much less than 15%.  Maybe there will be a small cut for travel websites which is better than  10 cents per 1000 views but until that moment the partner affiliate system is a “get rich very slowly scheme. Partner Program Partner Program



UPDATE: It has always surprised me how little I make on  Ten days ago (oct 2017)  I  clicked on my own affiliate link and booked a hotel for myself and I stayed there. I am not sure if this is allowed according to the rules so before making the booking I deleted all cookies and used a VPN to give me an ip address in the UK.  Gues what? There was no mention of a booking on the affiliate statistics page.  I doubt if are intentionally not giving comissions but I have proved to myself  that their tracking system does not work as it should.  I wonder how many other bookings were not tracked correctly.


How to learn a foreign language?

Language learning
A language class

How to learn a foreign language?

Note: The text below gives my opinion about how to learn a language. To see info about language learning platforms and systems click here.

Language Learning systems

A lot of nonsense is spoken about how to learn languages mostly by people with an ulterior motive such as selling some sort of language course or academic people who are too involved in abstract theories with little experience of the real world. It is almost impossible to do scientific experiments to find out how we learn languages, maybe in the future when we fully understand how the brain works it will be possible but until then all we can do is observe people learning languages to see if we can gain insights into the sort of conditions which lead to successful language learning. I believe that my own opinion is worth listening to mainly because of the amount of time I have spent both as as language learner and as a teacher. I have spent the last 26 years learning Spanish and I spent about 14 years teaching English to Spanish people. I was mostly a private one to one teacher so I have spent thousands of hours observing how people learn in close proximity.

Language Learning systems

It is interesting to consider how we learn our own native language. By the age of 5 most children have good communicative ability and have learned a very complex system of grammatical rules. This happens as if by magic. Nobody has made any grammatical explanations and nobody has consciously acted as a teacher. Nobody really understands how this happens. All we can say is that there is some sort of mysterious language acquisition device which enables us to learn languages. Many people refer to this as the LAD. It is widely believed that the LAD which helps us to learn our native language so easily becomes much less effective during the teenage years. In most cases to be completely bilingual you would have to have learned both languages before the age of 14. However, in my opinion the LAD never completely ceases to function and as long as we can expose the LAD to the correct input in the right circumstances, language acquisition is possible at any stage of life. In my opinion the best way of learning a language would be to expose your inner LAD to the right environment for about 80% of the time but also have some more formal training in grammar to help you understand how the structure of the language works.

Maybe the most rapid way of learning a language would be to fall in love with someone who is a native speaker of the foreign language, then go and live in their country and have no contact with your own language. After 6 months of such a total immersion most people would be very proficient. This is impossible for most people but if you try to find out why such a method is so successful and then replicate some of the factors it will lead to good ways of learning a language.

The most important key to success in language learning is motivation. If you have no real reason to learn a foreign language you will need incredible willpower and it is unlikely that you will ever succeed. If you consider that learning a language is a tedious chore then give up now, don’t waste any more time. Do something you like doing.

So, which is the best method of language learning? If ever you read some publicity for a language course that says their method will make you fluent in 3 weeks you can be certain that it is a lie. It is like trying to lose weight permanently by eating a diet of cabbage soup or getting fit by using a slendertone machine. It is best to use a mixture of methods which suit you personally and meets you own personal needs. Any method must be enjoyable or it will fail very quickly. In my opinion it is not a good idea to have too much faith in just one method of language learning you should do a whole range of activities which will help you learn.

One of the slowest most inefficient ways of learning a language is in a classroom full of people. School children often spend 10 years learning a foreign language with almost no result. This is probably because at school the teacher has to stick to teaching grammar because that is the only way to keep control over a classroom full of children. The results from adult education classes are a little better but only if the teacher is very good and if you also study outside of the classroom.

Language Learning systems

Here are some activities and ideas which can help you learn a language.

Attend language classes but don’t expect to learn very fast unless you do a lot of supplementary study.

Use vocabulary learning systems based on flashcards – for example duo lingua.

Watch films in the target language but with subtitles in your own language. (you can now do this with netflix)

I have recently had a go at making my own course for learning languages.  It is just a personal  project for me. I believe that flashcard learning is  a really good way of learning vocabulary.  There are currently 2 languages. Learn Spanish or
aprender ingles  

Use the immense amount of free online courses available on internet.

Sign up for the “word of the day” offered by many sites.

Do anything to make friends with people of the target language. Go to pen friend sites. Participate in online forums and interactive discussions on topics that you are interested in.

Become a couchsurfer host and have visitors in your own house from the target language. With couchsurfing you don’t actually have to put people up in your house you can just arrange to go out and show them around your city.

Use the target language version of websites which you use. eg in online banking, facebook and email accounts.

Volunteer in community programs where many people speak the target language. You can kill two birds with one stone, help people and learn their language.

Do a workaway or a helpx in a place that speak the language that you want to learn. More info

If you spend time commuting in your car, listen to one of the many language learning courses designed for the car. Better still do car pooling with someone from the target language.

Do online dating and have romantic liaisons with people from the target language.

Read books which have specially reduced vocabularies designed for language learners.

Don’t be too scared of making mistakes.  The most important thing is communication.

Go to online chatrooms which use the target language. For example

Read parallel texts which have your native language on the left and the target language on the right. You can glance over if you don’t understand something. example

Wake up in the morning by setting your alarm clock or internet radio to listen to the news in the target language.

If you have enough money get a private native teacher to come to your house.

The app Tic Toc is a very good way to improve your understanding of spoken Spanish if you already have at least intermediate level.  I live in Spain so it automatically shows Spanish content.  People speak very fast but it is on automatic repeat so after listening 2 or 3 times you should be able to understand.

When you have a conversation  with a native speaker constantly monitor what they say.  For example if you learn Spanish there are 2 forms of the verb “to be”.  Until you are familiar with how to use them you should continuously question why they are using one form or the other.

If you look on internet you can find linguistic interchanges for people who want to meet up in a bar and have cultural interchanges.

I have no experience of one to one skype classes with a native but this is probably worth investigating.

I don’t want to advocate heavy drinking but drinking a small amount of alcohol will make you feel less nervous and inhibited when you try to speak another language.

Note that Jehovas’s Witnesses will give you hours of free conversation classes if you invite them into your house to speak about religion.

Facts about Vegetarianism


Growing vegetables
Growing vegetables

Vegetarians are people who limit their consumption of animal products. There are many types of vegetarian and the principal ones are as follows.

Ovo-vegetarian: eggs but no dairy products

Lacto-vegetarian: dairy products but no eggs

Ovo-lacto vegetarian: can eat both eggs and dairy products

Pescetarian: fish but no other meat

Fruitarian: only eat fruit, nuts and seeds

Vegan :  excludes all animal products, including eggs, dairy, beeswax and honey. Some vegans also avoid animal products such as leather (and possibly silk).

Flexitarian: people who eat meat only occasionally

There are many reasons for being vegetarian.

Ethical reasons:

Some people are vegetarian because they object to modern factory farming which tends to keep animals in crowded living conditions with little regard to the dignity and happiness of the animals. Confinement at high stocking density requires the use of antibiotics and pesticides to stop the spread of disease. There is growing concern that the overuse of antibiotics will lead to resistant strains of bacteria. Some people believe that industrial poultry practices lead to the creation of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu and that factory farming may provide the conditions for the mutation of other diseases which may eventually affect the human population.

Health Benefits:

The most striking benefit is the decrease in ischaemic heart disease, non-vegetarians have a 24% lower mortality rate for this condition. According to the American Dietetic Association, vegetarians are at lower risk for developing:

Heart disease

Colorectal, ovarian, and breast cancers



Hypertension (high blood pressure)

Many studies show that a vegetarian diet increases the metabolism, causing the body to burn calories up to 16% faster than the body would on a meat-based diet for at least the first 3 hours after meals.

Environmental benefits of vegetarianism.

Growing crops to feed to animals is very inefficient. Raising animals for food (including land used for grazing and growing feed crops) now uses around 30% of the land mass on Earth. In the United States, 70% of the grain grown is fed to farmed animals. To produce one kilo of animal protein vs. one kilo of soy protein, it takes about 12 times as much land, 13 times as much fossil fuel, and 15 times as much water. The problem is that farm animals are inefficient converters of food to flesh. Broiler chickens are the best, needing around 3.4kg to produce 1kg of flesh, but pigs need 8.4kg for one kilo.

It has been calculated that if the grain fed to animals in western countries were consumed directly by people instead of animals, we could feed at least twice as many people.

Famous vegetarians:

There are hundreds of vegetarian celebrities for example: Albert Einstein, Bill Clinton, Billie Jean King, Boy George, Brad Pitt, Brigitte Bardot, Charlie Watts, Diane Keaton, Gwen Stefani, Chris Evert, Alanis Morissette, Sir Paul McCartney, Ozzy Osborne, Sinead O’Connor, Pamela Anderson, Russell Brand. It is very surprising to discover that Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian, he did not eat meat for the last 8 years of his life. It is even more surprising to discover that members of the Nazi party were supporters of animal rights and conservation. Heinrich Himmler made an effort to ban the hunting of animals. Göring was a professed animal lover and conservationist. In 1942, Hitler told Joseph Goebbels that he intended to convert Germany to vegetarianism when he won the war. It is incredible that such evil people had an affinity for animals but no regard for their fellow humans.

More info

Vegetarian Recipes:

Facts about Football

A free kick
Free Kick

Football (aka soccer) as we know it today came from a set of rules invented primarily in Britain. Various forms of football existed with very different rules that were created within the  British “public school” (private school) system. For example, Rugby School in Warwickshire created rules for their version of “football” that would become the foundation for the modern game of Rugby. However, it was Cambridge University who created the rules that were used by the Football Association when it was created in 1867. Cambridge rules were designed to be simple and focus on skill as opposed to force and heavily restricted the use of the hands for controlling ball.

Football is the most popular sport in the entire world. More than 715 million people tuned in to the FIFA World Cup final in 2006 in Germany and there were more than two billion viewers of all the matches in total. If the viewers of the final formed a country, they would be the third most populated country in the world with the total viewers being almost two times the population of China.

Unsurprisingly, football players make a lot of money and are some of the best paid sports-people in the world. Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid FC is the highest paid player in the world, earning £292,000 (after tax) a week. David Beckham is one of the most recognisable football players in the world and has created a brand around him, he currently has a net worth of $350 million. The world’s most expensive player is currently Gareth Bale who Real Madrid FC bought for £85 million in September 2013.

The largest crowd of any football match was between Brazil versus Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup in Rio de Janeiro. 199,854 people watched the match in the Estádio do Maracanã  to see Uruguay win two goals to nil against the host nation. This match shocked Brazil as many of the country’s newspapers had already proclaimed Brazil to be champions before the final.

Sheffield FC is the world’s oldest football club that currently still plays. The club was founded in 1857 after two members of a local cricket club wanted to make their casual football matches more formal. Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest founded the club and they initially used their own rules (Sheffield Rules) until later adopting formal Association Football rules. Both men heavily influenced amendments to the rules of the game and made the game what it is today.

The football club with the most supporters in the world is Manchester United, with 354 million fans worldwide; the club has been very successful winning the English Premier League 13 times. The next two most supported teams are Barcelona and Real Madrid from Spain. Both teams are fierce rivals and matches played between these two sides are called “El Clásico” with Barcelona currently winning 108 matches to Real Madrid’s 96. The biggest win was by Real Madrid who beat Barcelona 11-1 in a “Copa del Rey” match in 1943.

Click here to see football vocabulary in English Spanish and French