If you don't think that your electrical supply is a live issue, then you could be in for one or two shocks. It's time to be anything but neutral and get down to earth with a few facts on how to plug and play

Most Brits who take foreign holidays will recognise the plug adaptor (left). The surprising thing is that this so-called universal continental adaptor wont fit all sockets. There are at least four different types of electrical sockets in Spain ...and one of these has holes too small for some UK adaptors the socket (below left) will not accept all plugs (some have pins that are just a little bit too big ...the difference is so small that you would swear it should fit!

So what do you do when your hair-dryer or laptop wont plug into the hotel/villa socket? Most Spanish towns (and some villages) have the equivalent of an Ironmonger's shop...called a Ferreterķa that may have an adaptor to help you out. The adaptor pictured (left) clips over the UK adaptor. At a pinch you can use the adaptor shown on the right (though it does make the resultant fitting rather too long and unwieldy ...you will probably need to support the weight of the plug in some way.

The more electrically astute will have realised  that the two-pin adaptors (above) offer no possibility of earthing whatever you are plugging in and this starts to matter when the appliance you are using normally requires an earth. Pictured left is an example of an earthed socket (note the extra metal flanges  at the top and bottom of the sockets. The plan and top view of the corresponding plug shows a metal strap that engages with the socket's earth prong. The UK adaptor  has a similar strap that uses the (longer) earth pin on a UK plug

It's possible that you are already wondering about what prevents you  from putting a plug in the wrong way up ...and the answer can be shocking. Nothing at all. When places are wired up, Spanish electricians pay very little attention to the position of live and neutral wires ...the position may differ between sockets in the same room and the earth wire may not be connected to anything meaningful at the other end. The light switch (pictured right) requires the user to flick the switches up in order to turn the lights on!

Sadly, it is completely possible to get a mild shock off anything with a metal casing or exterior metal parts. Because it is possible to put any Spanish plug in a socket  "upside down" to the way you just tried (and got a shock). Deliberately reversing the polarity could make a difference to whether metal fittings are live or not. This is certainly a tip worth knowing about. Another thing worth investing a little money in, is a 'live indicating screwdriver (see below) make sure you have one finger on the little metal stud at the end and, if the little neon bulb glows orange then you know things are not completely safe!

Because Spanish brandy is so inexpensive, the new socialist government poured thousands of Euros into research . The aim was to be able to produce a portable power source based on renewable energy. As you can see (left) they succeeded. It's experimental and leading brandy manufacturers are already making special bottles to take the removable socket. Don't try this with ordinary brandy ...it has to be 'weapons grade' and made under special licence.

Email the author