Our intentions were good.
For Jake & Ellie’s birthday – back in early March – we bought them a fantastic climbing frame. We thought they’d love it!
Unfortunately we hadn’t quite thought it through…
The garden in the new house is a good size but when we looked at the space the thing needed we realised that it just wasn’t big enough!
At first we thought we’d have to knock down the very useful shed & rip out most of the beautiful flower garden just to fit it in!
After a lot of head-scratching & measuring with bits of string we finally found a place it could go without too much damage, leaving both the shed & the flowers intact. We just needed to have a lot of the paving & a small tree ripped out & replaced with turf.
Then – almost inevitably – we had many problems finding a contractor to do the work. It must have been about half a dozen of them who looked at the work, said they’d get back in touch – then didn’t.
Finally I found a good guy who could do the work at a reasonable price. He said he would talk to us before starting work: he didn’t! Instead he let himself in while no-one was there & ripped out ALL of the paving, not just the bits we wanted taken out! He took out, for instance, the back patio we use for eating outside, the area outside the side door, & a border we wanted left in.
We came back to a garden that looked like a bombsite: my wife was devastated! All the paving stones had been ripped out & put into big piles that looked like slag-heaps!
In the doom & gloom, cue Mr Brightside!
Jake noticed that one brick had been left sitting all by itself in the middle of the Plain of Desolation, and said:
“Well, at least he still left one.”
Fantastic! We all laughed: what a great way of lifting the edge off of a sad situation!
Sometime it needs the innocent & happy outlook of a small child to give us jaded grown-ups some perspective!
Happily the contractor came back promptly & was able to restore the paving he took out in error, & install the turf. The garden now looks great & we hope to have the shiny new climbing frame up & running very soon!
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Fortunately I’ve come across a meditation music app that really helps!
It’s called ‘Soothing Sounds’ & is available for your Android phone or tablet.
Does it work? Yes: this app is great!
I often get myself off to sleep with a ‘Mellow’ playlist on my ‘phone. This is good, but the playlist wasn’t designed for that & more often than not songs come up that are a bit too lively & delay the process. I also use TV, although I know I shouldn’t; it’s generally been shown to be a bad idea. I’m often woken up in the middle of the night by noisy ads or a bright screen.
This however works ‘like a charm’, & I’ve been using it regularly ever since I downloaded it.
It has a large variety of relaxing ambient sounds to choose from: for instance beach, binaural, birds, crickets, frogs, a ticking clock, a heartbeat, rain, a rainforest, flowing water, a Tibetan bowl, whalesong, white noise, wind & a some ‘new-age’ style music.
Each sound is configurable: you change both volume & intensity.
You can select each sound individually or in groups of up to 10; you can then save any of the groups you create for later use.
I found it was as fun to play around with as it is useful as a sleep-aid!
I do have a couple of minor quibbles however. The app is quite big, & if you’re like me & have a budget ‘phone with limited memory you may struggle to find space for it.
I also had trouble getting the options to work. You can set silence, alarm & wake-up timers but I found the keys unresponsive.
To be honest I’ve had similar trouble with other apps so it may well be my ‘phone’s fault. If not it just needs a simple patch.
I usually charge my ‘phone overnight anyway so I’ve often just left it on all night. It’s actually pretty good to wake up to!
The bottom line however: it works, it’s fun & it costs spare change, so I can recommend it!
In my experience anything that helps you sleep when you’re having trouble dropping off is worth it, & ‘Soothing Sounds’ does exactly that.
Review written in collaboration with Lost Ego Studios
Jake & Ellie, balloons, a clown, the seafront: that was my Silent Sunday Photo yesterday, & a lovely one too I think.
What is it they say? “A picture paints 1000 words”. There are definitely a few words behind this one!
The town we live in was having a ‘Seafront Festival’ , promising rides, stalls & entertainment. There were plenty of stalls alright, & good entertainment, but only 1 ‘ride’ – a sort of long soft-play bouncy castle. Probably just as well actually, as it was £2 for 5 minutes, & of course with us everything is x2!
After an oom-pah band the entertainment was this clown, a Mr T Ricks. He did a great show: he was funny, had great rapport with the kids, made some balloons then did a great ‘Punch & Judy’ show. The twins, & the many other children there, loved it.
We then wandered off for an over-priced lunch in a nearby cafe, then it was back to the seafront where Jake & Ellie selected their promised “1 treat & 1 toy” – both small! – each, the deal which had been thrashed out in earlier negotiations.
Jake found an ‘Angry Birds’ Pez ,which he loved, & Ellie a slurpy licky sugary juicy thing, which she didn’t. They both decided on loud horns for their toys. Oh goody…
I’d forgotten my earplugs! They sounded a lot like Vuvuzelas.
I hate Vuvuzelas!
After getting ‘tattoos’ – free from the lovely Mr Ricks – they decided they wanted to see his show again.
We’d grabbed a couple of (small!) balloons on the way – Jake a Spiderman one, & Ellie an Elsa & Anna one from her beloved ‘Frozen’. They were helium but were wrapped around their wrists so they wouldn’t fly away.
They were sitting down enjoying the show when their balloons become tangled in the wind. I stepped in to untangle them but somehow in the process Ellie’s came loose & flew off up into the sky!
She was very upset. She cried!
The lovely Mr T Ricks noticed, & actually stopped his show for her! He called her up, & made a special balloon, just for her! It took quite a while, & all the time he was making a fuss of her. And it really was a special balloon – a green-stemmed big white flower with a red love-heart inside the petal!
She still missed her ‘Frozen’ balloon but was very happy with her new one. Mr Ricks sir – you are a star!
We then walked back ‘home’. I was leading the way carrying Ellie’s flower balloon, Jake his Spiderman one, & they were tooting on their horns nearly all the way. We were like a mini-parade, & I was a little surprised all the children within earshot didn’t try to fall in line with us! We certainly got noticed!
We paraded all the way to – strange but true – the Library!
They do a weekly reading & crafting session there, 1 of the twins’ favourite activities. They made sparkly fish, & did a ‘monster-hunt’ treasure trail, & really enjoyed it all.
A great day, including a real Magic Moment, courtesy of a very kind clown!
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Accessing credit and loans, especially for big items such as a mortgage or a car, are of course a regular feature of family finances. Applying to lenders and hoping that they will agree to your request can be a stressful experience. However, it can be made a whole lot easier simply by better understanding how a potential lender might assess your application.
The key question for any lender is the chances that you will repay a loan in full and on time. By assessing the risk involved as best they can, lenders can make an informed decision. As a result, most lenders will refer to a credit score constructed by one of the UK’s three registered credit reference agencies. Your credit score is a snapshot of your credit status. It isn’t too difficult to understand your credit score – It is based on a 0-999 scale and the higher the number, the lower the risk.
So, how do the agencies assign your score? A major although not the only factor is your credit report. This is compiled by credit reference agencies from a whole range of available information to paint a picture of your financial reliability. Whether you know about it or not, there is a credit report on you and you can expect it to be the first port of call for any potential lender.
Your credit report includes personal information such as date of birth and address. It also contains details of your credit accounts and money you have borrowed and your repayment record during the past six years. Although it may seem trivial, even if you have paid a mobile phone bill late or missed an electricity bill, it may appear on your credit report and have a detrimental impact. It is therefore important to make sure that you and your family pay bills in full and on time. If you haven’t listed yourself on the electoral roll, then do it. This is one of the resources used by credit reference agencies and gaps in your residency may seem suspicious. Another thing worth noting is that if you are making mortgage overpayments, make sure that you don’t miss out on an entire monthly payment. Even if you are overpaying in order to reduce outstanding debt or guard against interest rates, a missing mortgage payment could be a red flag on your credit report.
Thankfully, it is very straightforward to check your credit report and it is advisable to do so regularly. You can simply request it from any of the credit reference agencies who will likely post it to you within a week. Once you receive the report, make sure that you check it thoroughly for accuracy. If you spot any mistakes, then you should contact all three agencies to have the report rectified. If there is an error connected to family members with whom you have no financial link, then you can ask to be “disassociated” from them through the agencies. If there is an inaccuracy concerning your credit record, then your first port of call should be the creditor who can update their records and then inform the agencies. If the creditor does not agree to amend their records, then you are entitled to attach a 200 word “Notice of Correction” to your file, explaining the disagreement.
Hopefully though, your credit report will need no corrections, in which case you are well advised to simply check it regularly and make sure it remains up to date.
Written in collaboration with David Taylor, finance writer from Leeds
We’ve had a lot of sun here lately. In fact over the last few days it’s been a bit too hot! I had trouble sleeping last night & had to keep the fan on, & I almost dread getting in the car for fear of being turned into a roast dinner!
And in case there are ever any doubts about my Britishness – I was after all born in New Zealand – here we are in the middle of a blazing sunny heat-wave, & I’m complaining about the weather!
(I love it, really…)
This being Wales though rain is never far away & this summer we’ve had our fair share.
Going outside in the wet stuff seems to bother me, & most adults, a lot more than it does my children!
During a recent shower Ellie insisted on going outside into the garden. And I insisted that she put on her raincoat.
Another creature who’s very fond of wetness is that little slimy thing beloved of all gardeners everywhere: the snail. We found millions of them! Mostly on the flowers, busily munching away of course.
We decided then that we would find as many of them as we could & put them in their new home.
We ended up having a lovely time! Ellie was giving each of her new pets their own names: first Daddy Snail, Mummy Snail, Jake Snail, then her friends, teachers, grandparents, cousins, aunts & uncles – anyone we could think of. It was a great little game!
She seemed really pleased with her little snail-house, full of her new pets!
I was also pleased that they were there & not eating up all the garden plants…
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