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lellagrace

lellagrace
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Member since: 06.08.2006

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    • Fostering / Parenting Issue / 35 Readings / 28 Ratings
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      19.09.2008 09:56
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      Have to give the baby away because of lack of finance

      I have read the previous reviews on fostering, which mainly seem to be written by foster parents. But what about someone thinking they might have to have their child fostered?

      This is something I have been concerned about over the last year. An acquaintance of mine, a young woman from a foreign country, found herself pregnant after a two year relationship with a man who she thought would marry her eventually. Of course, as happens all too often, he "did a runner" when she told him about the baby and he has gone abroad, efforts to trace him have been futile.

      This left the young woman concerned with the choice of bringing up her child on her own or giving it away for fostering or adoption. It was already too late for a termination by the time her partner had left her, her own family are very strict and in their country being an unmarried mother is a definite no-no.

      The woman has been in the UK studying for several years, when she finishes her studies she will be capable of earning a good salary and planned to return home. Due to her pregnancy she had to postpone the final years of her training, mainly due to lack of financial support (her parents had been helping but withdraw their help when they learnt of her pregnancy).

      Her baby is now several months old, she has coped with the help of a family who live nearby who have taken her into their home as they could not see her struggling in a student flat on her own. As the young woman is not from an EEC country she is not entitled to one single penny from our government - this means no child benefit, no help with childcare costs, no baby bond, nothing. I can understand this, but the woman has been working at a part time student job all the time she has been here and has paid NI and income tax. Why is she not entitled to help from the state when she has actually made contributions?

      So now we come to her decision - how is she going to cope bringing up her baby? She knows she has to work to support them both, the conditions of her visa state she is only allowed to work a certain amount of hours, so she is in a job which pays the minimum wage and earning not much at all. She has to pay a chldminder to look after her child, at £2.50 per hour this eats into her pay, leaving very little to pay for her board with the family who are caring for her.

      On behalf of the young woman the family have contacted citizens advice, social services, health authorities, charities, even their MP, but nobody comes up with any solutions.

      So the young woman is faced with having to give up her baby for fostering until she is in a situation where she can finish her studies and get a well paid job. This will break her heart. What kind of family will her child be placed with? Will the baby remember her mum when they can get back together?

      When asked my advice, as a friend, I suggested the woman needed counselling to help her come to a decision. She waited two months for an appointment, then was given one hour counselling and then told to ring if she felt she needed to see them again. I could not believe this, surely she needs more help?

      I have myself approached various "authorities" as the family are so drained with being passed from one agency to another. But it seems to me that nobody wants to help, it is all too easy to remove a child from its mother and place it into a foster home, but how much is this going to cost?

      Wouldn't it be easier to pay the mother or at least the family caring for her, instead of paying a foster carer? From what I have read the authorities pay around £300 per week to foster carers for each child. Why can't they give this woman something to support her own baby? She is happy to continue with her studies and part time work, but also needs some help to bring up her child until she is in a position to support them both.

      It is impossible for her to return to her own country, they would both be ostracised. She cannot claim asylum or refugee status as her situation is not so serious.

      If the baby is placed into a foster home it will be clothed in nice outfits, at the moment all its clothes are either from charity shops or E Bay, or have been bought by friends. Baby equipment was all secondhand. A new foster carer would be given grants to buy all this, but a young woman struggling is given no help at all.

      I am furious to think the solution may be to give up this child to a foster home. Where are all the childrens' charities who are supposed to help poor families? Oh don't suggest I contact them, I have done that only to be told "we can't help, try so and so." A neighbour of mine donated lots of baby equipment to a charity collection, not realising the young woman would have appreciated them. So we went along to the charity shop and they told us everything is sorted out at a central warehouse and there was none of the stuff there.

      The only help this woman has received has been from friends of the family who have taken her in and the loan of a breast pump from the health department. If the baby was given up for fostering everything would be provided.

      I don't imagine anyone has a solution to this, but I just want to point out how ridiculous it is to pay for a child to go into foster care, when that money could be used to help the baby's own mother to take care of her child herself.

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      • More +
        20.03.2008 14:39
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        Would certainly stay here again

        We stayed here in December last year and it was an excellent hotel. The rates were very reasonable and were the same price for four people in a room as for one - although this could have been a special offer so do check before you book.

        Location of the hotel is very good, both for getting to the Disney park and for out of town shopping centres. There is a shuttle bus which runs at frequent intervals to the Disney park and this picks up and drops off outside the main door of the hotel.

        We found the hotel easily enough as we drove to the resort and there were adequate car parking facilities there. Within a few miles of the hotel there is a major retail outlet with a shopping centre and supermarket, very handy if you wanted to eat out or have a change from Disneyland.

        The hotel was clean, smart with good decor, and the staff were all very helpful. There is a bar area where you can buy drinks and when this is not open there are vending machines in the lobby.

        There is also a small boutique situated within the main reception area, where you can buy Disney souvenirs. Prices were the same as at the resort and they had some items that were not for sale at the park. Ideal for gifts to take home.

        We ate breakfast every day in the hotel restaurant and there was a good choice of foods, including continental breakfast and cooked breakfast. Although the cooked breakfast was not to the same standard as you would get in Britain, but this did not bother us as we prefer healthier options. However, we did hear several Brits complain about the bacon not being as good as they hoped! (Why go to France if you want to eat English food??)

        The restaurant did tend to get rather busy at breakfast time, but this was around Christmas and the hotel was busy with large groups of visitors. We were given tokens to hand in at the restaurant as we entered and it was self service so all we had to do was find a table and then load up our trays.

        We did eat in the restaurant one evening but did not feel the choice or quality of food was up to much, so ate out after that. Although, in fairness, we have to say it was rather late when we arrived and the food had probably been out on the hotplates for a while, making it not very appetising. However, the choice did seem limited and the prices seemed rather high for what was on offer.

        The hotel rooms were comfortable, with en suite bathroom. There were bunk beds in the rooms and we had two rooms with an interconnecting door, making it ideal for keeping an eye on the children. We needed broadband internet access and this was available, making the hotel ideal for anyone wanting to stay there for business.

        We have stayed at other Kyriad hotels, all of which are part of a larger group, and run on a franchise system. The Disneyland Resort hotel was one of the best we stayed at, but then you would expect a decent standard at a resort like this.

        We booked through Expedia so probably got a special deal, but you can book direct with the hotel. Look out for special offers as you can make big savings, sometimes breakfast is extra but we were on a special deal where it was included in the price.

        As it was Christmas when we were there the hotel was decorated very tastefully and everywhere was very clean and comfortable. I would certainly stay there again and as there is a direct train from Disney resort into Paris, it is an ideal place to stay if you want to combine a trip to Disneyland with a trip to the capital.

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          16.03.2008 15:16
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          Write every day and keep sending in your work

          "Getting your work published" is a very broad title, but if you write a review on Dooyoo, then you are already having your work published. Even if all you write are comments on others' reviews, your own work is being published.

          But why stop there? Maybe you want to become a published writer of books or write for magazines, but don't know how to set about it.

          There are lots of books out there about how to become a writer, how to write that novel or how to write for children. There are magazines, such as Writers Forum and Writing Magazine, which are available at W H Smiths and other good booksellers. All these things give the aspiring writer hints and tips on how to write. The internet has masses of information for aspiring writers, just do a google search and you will find them.

          However, getting your work published is a totally different ballgame to the actual writing. It is also an expensive and time consuming process. It could be that you have already written a book, believing it will be a bestseller. You may think it is easy to get your novel published, surely if you send it off to a publisher or an agent they will jump at the chance to publish your work. Unfortunately this is not the case.

          Every writer will tell you that you have to get used to having your work rejected before it is a success. Agents are hard to find unless you have contacts or are already successful, many publishers won't even consider your work unless it is submitted via an agent. Catch 22 situation.

          So why not start small and aim to get something other than that novel published first? You could start by writing a letter to a newspaper or magazine or maybe letters to teletext. Write about something you know (that is the first golden rule of writing anything!). Maybe you have a trade journal or company magazine connected with your job, start with that. Or the women's magazines, or hobby magazines. Many of these pay for letters written by readers. If your letter is published you will know that the editor considered your work good enough to be read by a wider audience. This should then spur you on to write more letters. All good practice in the art of writing for publication.

          As you become more confident and have had more letters accepted, you could try writing feature articles about your interests.

          Invest in a copy of the Writers' Handbook or the Writers' and Artists' Year book. In there you will find details of publications who accept articles for publication.

          It is also a good idea to borrow books from your library on writing to see how to set out your work and other useful tips. Good presentation is essential if you are submitting work. If your library doesn't have many books on writing then look on E Bay to see if you can buy secondhand or browse in your local booksellers. A lot of "how to write" books are not very informative or they are repetitive, so it is best to borrow or buy cheaply if you can.

          There are many writing courses you could take, some of these offer a money back guarantee if you don't recover the course fees after completing the course. But be warned, these courses are not cheap and you may lose motivation to complete the assignments. If you just want to know how to write, without having to complete assignments, then again look on E Bay to see if there are any writing courses for sale. You will learn how to write, but not have the critique service available like you would if you purchase the course firsthand.

          An alternative is to take a university course in Creative Writing, these are very useful in that they often enable you to have contact with agents, as well as giving you a worthwhile qualification.

          I have been writing for many years now and have had lots of things published, books as well as magazine articles, but it is a long hard slog. I am convinced that it is often a case of not "what you know" but "who you know." So if you already have a writer in your family or know a publisher or agent, then you are probably well on the way to having your work published. Unlike the rest of us who have had to struggle through the mountains of rejection slips to achieve our aims!

          You can always self publish of course. This is not as daunting as it sounds, all you need is to write your book and then get copies printed off to sell. Selling is the hardest part. It is not easy to get self published books stocked by the larger bookstores. Even if you self publish, you have to do all the PR stuff yourself to get your book noticed. If you write about something that is specialised or of local interest then you may have a market in mind, but for general novels I would not advise self publishing.

          A word of caution, beware of so called "vanity publishers". These are companies which promise to publish your book, often at extortionate fees, then you are left to do all the marketing and selling yourself.

          Put off getting your work published after reading this review? Don't be, like I said, if you write on Dooyoo then others are reading your work, so set about tackling other markets.

          Never forget the advice to any writer is ALWAYS have a notebook handy to jot down your thoughts, then write something every day and keep on sending out your work. If you don't send it out to markets then you will never get it published!

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          • Cakes / Recipe / 45 Readings / 40 Ratings
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            22.09.2007 11:20
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            Home made Christmas cake tastes good!

            I know it is only September but this is the time of year when I bake my Christmas cakes. Not everyone likes the rich fruit cake but in my family it would not be Christmas without Christmas cake. By baking it so early, the cake has time to mature before it is eaten and is a rich, moist cake for Christmas.

            There are various stories associated with the origins of Christmas cake. Some say that the cakes were originally baked as puddings, others say they were prepared from all the ingredients found in the kitchen that could be added together to make a rich and substantial cake for the festive season.

            My mother used to make her Christmas cakes on a Sunday afternoon and as children my father would amuse us while she got on without interruption. However, when the mixture was safely in the baking tins we were allowed to eat the remaining mixture around the sides of the mixing bowl.

            The recipe I use is my own, a combination of old family recipes with a bit of my own "artistic licence". Every year I make a large quantity and bake three or four loaves and a large square or round cake, plus several smaller ones.

            The loaves are sliced and are delicious eaten with Cheshire cheese (an old Yorkshire custom). The largest cake is eventually covered in marzipan and iced. The smaller ones are decorated in the same way but I take these to elderly friends and relatives who appreciate home made cake, but are now unable to make their own.

            One thing that amazes me every year is when I hear people say they always have a real Christmas tree, as they feel it makes a "real" Christmas. But they then say they have bought a Christmas cake at M & S or the supermarket. I would prefer an artificial tree to a mass produced cake thank you.

            It is probably cheaper to buy one cake at the supermarket, but as I make a large amount it is more cost effective to make my own.

            I decide to set a day aside to do my baking and then make sure I have all the ingredients assembled the night before.

            The fruit is put in a large mixing bowl and I pour brandy over it (use as much as you like, but a cupful should be adequate). The brandy then soaks into the fruit overnight and is ready to add to the cake mixture.

            That was some additional information, here is the recipe

            The quantity shown will make one large cake (8" deep tin) or two loaves.

            INGREDIENTS

            2 lbs Mixed fruit
            4 oz glace cherries
            8 oz butter (I always use butter, but margarine will do)
            8 oz soft dark brown sugar
            1 tbsp black treacle
            5 large eggs
            10 oz plain flour
            1 tsp mixed spice
            pinch of salt

            METHOD

            Beat butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add treacle. Beat well. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 1 tbsp flour with last egg.

            Sift together dry ingredients and stir into creamed mixture, alternately with fruit.

            Mix well and then spoon into tins, greased and lined with two thicknesses of greaseproof paper.

            Bake in a slow over for two hours. (Gas 2, 300F, 150C)

            Check cakes are done by pressing lightly on top, if an imprint is left return cake to oven. If the top springs back when pressed then it is done. You can double check by inserting a thin knitting needle or skewer into the cake, if it comes out clear the cake is done, if any mixture is left then it needs longer.

            Leave the cakes to cool in the tins and when cool turn out onto a baking tray and remove the greaseproof paper.

            I store my cakes by wrapping them in greaseproof paper and putting them into an airtight tin, or wrapping them in foil. DO NOT wrap the foil directly onto the cake as the acid in the fruit may react with the foil.

            Every couple of weeks I take out the large cake and feed it with brandy. To do this turn the cake upside down and make several holes with a skewer, then pout brandy over the cake. This ensures the cake keeps moist and it tastes delicious! You can do the same with the other cakes, but I only feed the largest one.

            About a month before Christmas I put the almond paste on the cakes that are going to be iced and leave this for two weeks before icing them. However, you can do this in a couple of days if you are short on time, just remember to let the almond paste dry out for at least 24 hours before icing over it, otherwise the oils will seep out and discolour the icing.

            REMARKS

            The addition of dark brown sugar and black treacle makes the cake a rich dark brown, but if you prefer to use lighter coloured brown sugar then this is okay.

            To line your tins, cut our strips of greaseproof paper and melt some margarine in the microwave, then using a pastry brush, brush the inside of the tins and add a layer of paper, repeating the process with the second layer and finally brush the lining to make sure the cake doesn't stick to it.

            When visitors arrive over the weeks leading up to Christmas it is customary where I live to offer them a slice of Christmas cake, and a piece of cheese.

            The large, iced cake is left until Christmas Day before it is cut and then it is centrepiece on the evening buffet table. You can rough ice this by covering with royal icing and forming it into peaks with a knife. Add a small tree decoration or similar and you have a pretty cake. You can also cover the cake in fondant icing and just add a ribbon around the sides. If you want to be more adventurous with the icing then look in magazines or cake decorating books for ideas.

            SANTA CLAUS

            One last thing, Santa Claus loves Christmas cake so before the kids go to bed on Christmas Eve leave a slice of cake and a glass of sherry for Santa. He has been eating cake and drinking sherry since I was a child, so he must enjoy it!!!

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            • Lloyds TSB / Bank / 42 Readings / 37 Ratings
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              20.09.2007 13:57
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              A bank I trust

              I have been a customer of Lloyds TSB for over thirty years and have to admit that I have had my ups and downs with them.

              PERSONAL SERVICE

              When I first opened my account with Lloyds it was because my husband had his account there so we opened a new joint one together. At that time we were both known by all the staff in our local branch, and if the manager was around he would take time for a chat. In short, we were treated as individuals and known personally to the staff.

              MERGED

              This continued for several years, then the bank merged with other branches and instead of being account holders at our branch, our finances were handled by a central office.

              JOINT ACCOUNT CLOSED

              After my husband died I notified the bank and changed the account into my own name. Unfortunately statements still arrived addressed to both of us and I found this upsetting. Despite several calls to the central office this continued so one day I insisted they put me through to my local branch. Not only was the manager upset at what had happened, he actually came to see me at home and brought with him a colleague who had been appointed to deal with my finances personally.

              SIGNATURE

              From then onwards everything was fine, but staff leave and that is what happened. One day I went into the branch to withdraw some money and I was asked for proof of signature etc. There was some confusion as they said they didn't have my signature on file. I stood my ground and when I persisted the assistant fetched the file. To say I was shocked and upset is an understatement. On the file card was the signature of my late husband, not mine.

              To me, a signature is a very personal thing and to see my late husband's handwriting - three years after his death - upset me greatly. So much so that I left the branch without a word and took myself off to their central bank where all local accounts are dealt with. I have to say that once again the staff were most apologetic, they could see how upset I was and couldn't understand why my late husband's signature was still on file.

              I decided enough was enough and told them I was going to change to a different bank. However, the manager contacted me personally and assured me that once again a colleague would be allocated to my account who would deal with future transactions for me. So I stayed with them.

              CALL CENTRE

              For some years everything went smoothly and if I had any queries I was able to ring my local branch and once again, the staff knew who I was.

              Then they changed their number and I had to ring the call centre if I needed to discuss anything. Initially this was okay as they would put me through to the branch, but then the calls were handled by an overseas call centre. When I could understand what the operator was saying, I did ask to be put through to my own branch. This was not done until I had explained what my query was.

              Needless to say, after one call when I was neither able to understand what the operator was saying, nor she was able to understand me, I paid a visit to the branch and told them of my dissatisfaction.

              Yes, you have guessed it, once again a member of staff was allocated to my account.

              THREE YEARS LATER

              Thankfully three years on this same lady is still working there and I have to say she is brilliant. In fact had it not been for her help I would certainly have changed banks.

              If I have a query I can ring the branch - she has given me their direct number - and know it will be dealt with.

              MINOR HICCUPS

              There have still been one or two minor hiccups, for example when I went to pay in an overseas cheque recently the clerk insisted I had not completed the paperwork correctly. I pointed out that this was the way I always completed it but she was adamant it was not acceptable. Rather than argue with her at a busy time I asked to speak to "my" assistant and the problem was sorted out.

              CHARGES

              I received a leaflet this week notifying me of changes to various charges. I cannot say I am too bothered about this as they do not seem to affect me too much and I am sure Lloyds TSB are in line with other banks regards charges.

              I have to say that I do not like the fact that they charge me a fee when I use my bank card overseas, but having checked it seems most banks do this.

              FRAUD

              On a couple of occasions there have been attempts by others to use my own and my family's accounts by fraudelant means.

              The first time this happened was several years ago when it came to light when I tried to use the cash machine. Some inconvenience was caused as my details had to be changed, but Lloyds were very helpful.

              On another occasion we got a phone call one evening to say someone had tried to use my son's visa card. As he had had this for some time and not used it, the bank were checking it was a legit transaction. It was, but we were glad the bank had spotted what could have been a problem.

              ONLINE

              I now have an online account and use this to check my balance, set up standing orders and direct debits, pay into other accounts etc.

              Paper statements are still available but I have opted not to receive them as I can check online. Why waste paper and postage?

              SATISFACTION

              I now have a lot more confidence in Lloyds Bank, almost like the old days. I am sure they went through a period of upheaval when they merged with the TSB and no doubt it was nightmarish for the staff as well as customers.

              I truly believe that Lloyds listens to its customers and tries to improve its services and products to their satisfaction.

              It was with some reluctance that I changed to a joint account all those years ago when I got married. Lloyds was not my bank and I did keep my own account at my old one.

              However, I have to say that over the years that the services offered by the bank where I had my own account, deteriorated. Eventually I closed my account there and opened another with Lloyds.

              LOYALTY

              When our children were born we opened accounts for them at Lloyds and they were helped through uni by the student facilities offered by Lloyds. Now they are all adults with good careers I am happy to say they have stayed loyal to Lloyds.

              Yes, Lloyds TSB may have caused me problems over the years, but they have been sorted out.

              When I hear of anyone complaining about Lloyds TSB I suggest they stop moaning to me and make the bank staff aware of their dissatisfaction.

              Despite what we hear about major high street banks, I hope Lloyds TSB will continue to deal with my finances for many years to come.

              EXTRA MILE

              The staff are polite and helpful and really try to do their best. Last week in my local branch there was a foreign young man who was having difficulty in making himself understood. I was proud of my bank when an assistant was called over to help him as she was able to speak his own language.

              The young man was trying hard to speak English, but some of the bank jargon was confusing to him, so it was good that they were able to help.

              If queues are lengthy, the assistants always apologise for the delay.

              In my opinion, Lloyds TSB is the bank that goes that extra mile to help its customers.

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              • More +
                19.09.2007 16:00
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                Make a schedule to do what you want.

                Hints and tips on what? Well, I am going to write about hints and tips on time management, a bit different I suppose. Hope you find it useful.

                Today I received an e mail from a friend who has been retired for a while and now has time to do all the things she has wanted to do, but never been able to fit everything into a busy schedule.

                There is an old saying "If you want something doing, ask a busy person to do it for you." How true, if you are busy you may feel like you will never get round to doing everything, but the fact that you have lots to do will actually spur you on to complete all the tasks.

                So why is it that when we are working we long for retirement or to have time off work, but then when we have the time we don't use it properly.

                Let's start with a plan. When you have to go to work you know what time you have to get up in the morning. But when you have a day off, it is a bonus to be able to spend an extra hour in bed. That is the first mistake, get up at your usual time and you will then be able to do lots more. An hour in the morning is worth two in the afternoon, is another saying. In other words, we all work better in the morning. (Even though it does take several cups of coffee for some of us!)

                I have now stopped going out to work and have more time at home. For the first few weeks I was eager to do all the things I never had time for before. However, because I was not restricted to a time schedule I found everything was taking a lot longer. I am sure this was because I had all the time in the world to do things. What didn't get done one day could wait until the next, what was the rush? Before I knew it a whole month had passed and had I done everything I planned? No, it seemed as if I had harldy done anything. Well, maybe to be truthful I was in need of a bit of a rest, but to spend a whole month doing .... err what exactly??

                So time to sort myself out. If any of you were told you could have a whole month to do as you like, wouldn't that be great? But I had wasted all that time!

                First thing was to I make sure I get up at the time I used to do when I was working. I admit I do have a leisurely breakfast and listen to the news, a luxury I couldn't afford before. The tv is then switched off and I get on with the tasks I have planned for the day.

                Yes, planned. I now make a plan each week of what I hope to do throughout the next few days. As I was used to working to a strict schedule, with every part of the day accounted for, I decided the only way to make the best of my time at home was to do a similar thing. In fact, when I worked my whole year had to be planned, but I am not so strict with myself now.

                The difference is that now I make a list of what I hope to do each week, but there is no particular order in which this has to be done.

                I am not just talking about necessary tasks, such as housework or gardening and shopping. I add in things such as lunch or coffee with friends, trips out, hobbies and even watching tv.

                It is all too easy to sit down in the morning and switch on the telly and spend all day watching different programmes. As far as I am concerned this is a complete waste of time. There are far more interesting things to do than watch tv all day. But there are programmes I do want to see, so these are recorded of fitted in to the schedule.

                I have made an effort to also catch up on old friends. My more recent friendhips had been with work colleagues and as they are still working I can't see them in the day. Therefore I made a determined effort to make contact with friends I had not seen for a while. It was nice to be able to ring them and arrange to meet. Some of them are working in nearby towns, but now I am free to meet them in their lunch hours or after work, without having to worry about the distance, it is easier to make arrangements. Don't be vague and say "the next few days", get out your diary and make a firm arrangement - just as you would do if it was a business meeting.

                I also looked up some of my old school friends and former neighbours. Many of us are now in a similar situation, having stopped work for various reasons, and were finding it hard to build up contacts who are free in the day. We now meet regularly for lunch.

                If you need to get organised to spend your non-working week wisely then allocate a certain amount of time in your week to get the essential chores out of the way. Don't think because you have all day at home that you can take your time over the housework. How did you manage when you were working? I found that I was doing housework almost every day, whereas when I was working I did all the cleaning in one day. Now I split it into two half days, allowing me more leisure time.

                Of course I have to discipline myself to stick to my new routine. It would be all to easy to sit around doing nothing some days, but if I have scheduled "time for me" into my week, then I can do just that. But then I still have to fit in all the other things at another time.

                So now you are probably wondering why I am spending all this time writing a review? Simple, each day I schedule time for putting the computer on. Again, it can be a great time waster surfing the internet and before you know it a couple of hours has sped by. I set aside time each day when I check my e mails and have a look at Dooyoo reviews, and maybe write my own. The computer is then switched off unless it is needed for another scheduled task.

                By working out my schedule in this way, I now find that I no longer say there are not enough hours in the day to do everything. I find I have a more organised lifestyle, with time to enjoy myself and to do what I want to do. A typical working week is around 35 hours, plus travelling. That is a lot of time to fill when you stop work, so why waste it.

                I once read somewhere that work will expand to fit into the numbers of hours that are available. But this is also true of leisure time. Use time wisely and get organised and you will have time to everything you want to do and everything that needs to be done.

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                • Deal or No Deal / TV Programme / 32 Readings / 30 Ratings
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                  18.09.2007 19:26
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                  Noel Edmonds in another show

                  Deal or No Deal is on Channel 4 on weekday afternoons, finishing at 5pm and then is repeated later on other channel.

                  Noel Edmonds is the host of the show and there are 22 contestants appearing each time. One is chosen at random to compete for the prize money and they can win anything from 1p to a quarter or a million, depending on luck.

                  Each contestant has a box which is numbered and the player has to choose which box s/he wants to open. Once the velcro strip is removed from the sealed box the amount of money is revealed. The player has their own box in front of them and as nobody knows what is in any of the boxes until they are opened, it is a nail biting game at times.

                  The boxes have the amounts in red or blue, and if they are the wrong colour they are not so lucky! (I am trying not to give too much away here, watch the game for more info).

                  Unlike many other quiz shows at the moment, this one does not require contestants to answer any questions, apart from the one which Noel asks them when an offer of cash is made from the Banker.

                  The Banker is someone who none of us ever hears or sees. He or She talks to Noel via an old fashioned black telephone and Noel is told what they banker will offer the player for his/her box.

                  The amount offered depends on the state of the board where the prizes are displayed. If the player has only got large prize amounts left the offer from the banker is likely to be substantial. The player then has to decide whether it is worth taking the money or carry on playing, bearing in mind that until the very last round the amount in the player's own box will not be known.

                  Future contestants hoping to go onto the show will have along wait as they are not taking any more names for the time being. If you are successful enough to be accepted to be on the show, then you are invited to take a friend with you and have to be prepared to take part in recordings over a three week period. This is because only one contestant is chosen each day and it could be weeks before you are chosen.

                  I have seen contestants on Deal or No Deal who have been on other quiz shows, which made me think that they were all out of work actors who took part.

                  Then my friend told me that her cousin had been accepted to appear on the show, so I realised they do take anyone.

                  I am not terribly keen on Noel Edmonds as a presenter, but he seems popular on this show. Also, the phone calls from the banker really annoy me as they happen very frequently and then Noel has some daft conversation with him. If indeed there is actually anyone on the end of the phone!!!

                  I know a lot of people are addicted to this show, but I could not watch it every day. It is one of those shows that I watch if I am bored or I can't be bothered to do anything else, I certainly could not become addicted to it.

                  However, if you have never seen Deal or No Deal, then it might be worth giving it a try. It does take a while to realise what is happening at first, and it can become tense when the large amounts have disappeared all but one and perhaps 10p.

                  But I can see why it is on Channel 4 and in late afternoon and not a peak time show.

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                  • bid tv / TV Channel / 35 Readings / 33 Ratings
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                    17.09.2007 11:06
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                    Bargains are available but do check hidden costs

                    I came across Bid TV on my Freeview box by chance whilst browsing through what was available on the different channels. It is on Ch23 on Freeview.

                    In short, Bid TV is yet another shopping channel where you can bid in two ways for items on offer.

                    BIDS

                    The most usual kind of offers are where a product is shown at a high price, which is then lowered - sometimes drastically - to encourage more buyers. For example, an item might start at 80 GBP and be lowered to as little as a fiver. If you bid on it at the original price and the price is then lowered, every bidder pays the lowest price, regardless of what it was when they placed their bid.

                    Another kind of offer is where they ask for the highest bids and buyers put in their highest offer for an item and it is then sold to the highest bidder.

                    PRODUCTS

                    Bid TV offers a large variety of items, from household goods to childrens' toys, CDs, DVDs, Electrical goods, clothing, beauty products, watches and jewellery. In fact it is almost a department store on your tv.

                    The items on offer are shown and demonstrated on the tv, but you can also see them online at www.bid.tv

                    You can place bids online before they appear on the television, so this is useful if you are looking for something and will not be able to watch the tv show. Or you can browse through the online offers.

                    I have bought several items from Bid TV but only before I have checked they were actually cheaper than elsewhere, or not available in the shops.

                    A few months ago I bought a duvet set and I was delighted with it. The quality was very good and it was in a design that I had not seen elsewhere. But the best part was that it cost me a lot less than a similar set would have cost if I had found it in a shop.

                    PRICE

                    Before you bid on anything do make sure that you take into account the additional costs that will be added to your purchase.

                    Postage and packing can be quite high if the item you are bidding for is heavy, for example with pots and pans. Usually the p and p is around 7.99 for most items, which can seem a bit high when it is for goods that have supposedly cost a fiver or less at the lowest bid price. But do remember this is for post AND packing and I have to say that this company do use sturdy packaging for the goods they send out.

                    In addition to the post and packing you need to add on the cost of your phone call if placing your bid by phone. These vary according to your phone company, but are not less than a couple of pounds.

                    Therefore, if you bid on something that seems a bargain price, do check that after you have added on these extras that you are still getting a bargain.

                    HOW TO BID

                    Before you can bid you have to register with the company. This is straightforward and you have to supply your personal details plus bank or credit card details and create a password.

                    Once the registration process is completed you can ring up and make a bid on anything you want to buy. The automated service is quick and easy to use, so you are not spending hours on the phone waiting to speak to someone.

                    Alternatively, you can register online by following the simple process shown on the website and then place your bids.

                    DELIVERY

                    I have to say that whenever I have bought from Bid TV the items have been delivered within a couple of days, which is excellent. They are sent by private courier usually, but do be aware that sometimes these couriers leave items on the doorstep if you are not at home. This is not the fault of Bid TV of course, but it has happened to me on a couple of occasions and I have complained to the courier company.

                    GUARANTEE

                    Anything you buy has a no quibble money back guarantee, should the product not be to your liking or be faulty.

                    SUMMARY

                    Bid Tv is ideal for anyone who wants the convenience of shopping from home. You can see what you want to buy and have it delivered.

                    There may be times when you receive items and they are not what you thought they would be like. In this case you then have the hassle of returning them.

                    The presenters can become irritating after a few minutes as they try to extol the virtues of the product they are offering. I mean, there is only so much you can say about things and their efforts at making mundane goods seem exciting is very annoying. Not only that, but some of the presenters have voices that are really irritating and it appears that they are on the shopping channel because they have failed to get a job as a presenter elsewhere. I have to say however, that they do a good job, it can't be easy trying to talk for several minutes about some of the things they have on offer.

                    In conclusion, I think tv and internet shopping channels such as Bid Tv are a great idea, as long as you don't become addicted to them and buy for the sake of it! Be sensible and only bid for things you really want, and you might just get a bargain.

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                    • Apples / Plant / 31 Readings / 31 Ratings
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                      16.09.2007 16:40
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                      Apples are good for you

                      MEDICINAL PROPERTIES

                      An apple a day keeps the doctor away - an old saying which this week has been announced to be true. Apples are one way of obtaining your five-a-day and have numerous health benefits, some of which have been included in the introduction to the review category.

                      It has long been the case that apple sauce accompanies rich food such as pork. This is because the apple helps aid digestion.

                      Apples help prevent constipation and are good for the teeth, as they supposedly help prevent gum disease.

                      TREES

                      Now is the time of year when apple trees in gardens and orchards will be laden with fruit. Also, if you are planning on planting an apple tree this is the time of year to do so.

                      Before buying your tree decide what variety of apples you want - will you be using the apples for eating or cooking? Do you have a favourite variety? The best thing to do is to read about the different kinds of apple trees, then go along to a reputable nursery or garden centre and make your choice.

                      It used to be that you needed two apple trees for them to be fruit bearing, but now there are self pollinating varieties. You can also obtain miniature apple trees which are idela for small gardens.

                      Be careful when selecting your tree that you know how big it is going to grow. Will it be suitable for your garden or will it grow too big?

                      CROPS

                      In early spring the apple blossom will appear on the trees, a sure sign that summer is just around the corner. Once the blossom fades the fruit begins to set and you can then watch the apples forming.

                      From around the middle of September the apples should be ready to pick, depending on both the weather and on the variety. As this year has been very wet in the summer months, the fruit has developed well and many trees have an abundance of fruit.

                      If it is windy there will be a lot of windfalls, apples which have fallen off the tree.

                      The windfalls can be gathered up and used in cooking if they are slightly bruised.

                      Apples are ready to pick when you can hold the fruit in the palm of your hand and gently twist the stalk. If the apple breaks off easily, it is ripe.

                      There is something therapeutic about picking apples from your own tree and it is also good to know that your crop has not been sprayed with pesticides.

                      USES

                      There are so many recipes you can use for apples, from apple pie to apple crumble, or baked apples stuffed with dates and cooked in the oven, stewed apples. All these make delicious desserts served with custard, cream or ice cream.

                      Or you can use the apples to flavour meat dishes, add a few slices of apples to pork chops and gently simmer in the oven.

                      Of course you can simple eat the apple raw, perfect for a snack or to take with a packed lunch. And a Yorkshire delicacy is to eat apple pie with a chunk of cheese!

                      Apples are used in jams and chutneys also.

                      When peeled, apples soon discolour so it is best to eat them as soon as possible. The peel itself is full of nutrients and if you plant the pips you can even grow another apple tree! Many an urban garden has an apple tree grown from a discarded apple core.

                      STORAGE

                      Apples should be stored in a cool place, preferably wrapped individually so as to prevent them bruising each other and to prevent rot spreading.

                      Lay them in layers in boxes or baskets, with a layer of paper (tissue paper is best) between each layer. Check regularly for signs of rot.

                      Years ago apples at the greengrocers were wrapped individually in tissue paper and placed in sturdy wooden boxes. Even now, the fruit is often separated by modern packaging materials, and the sturdy cardboard boxes that apples are packed in are great for using as home storage or for preparing for house removal.

                      APPLE LOGS

                      If you have an apple tree in the garden and also have an open fire, then do save some of the branches after pruning. The smell of apple logs is delightful when burnt on an open fire, especially at Christmas time.

                      CIDER

                      A review on apples would not be complete with a mention of that potent drink - apple cider! Or scrumpy as it is often known. A delicious lunch on a sunny autumn day, a glass of cool cider, bread and cheese and an apple to finish off with!

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                      • Knitting / Discussion / 27 Readings / 27 Ratings
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                        15.09.2007 20:09
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                        Learn to knit and save a fortune

                        Not sure why this is under the toys category, unless it is to encourage youngsters to knit, but anyway, here is my review.

                        I have vivid memories of being taught to knit by my mum one miserable Sunday afternoon. She had bought me some small plastic needles and a ball of wool and after casting on some stitches, mum painstakingly set about the task of teaching me this craft.

                        I must have been around six years of age, but by the time I was eight we were having needlework lessons one afternoon a week at school. Only the girls did needlework, the boys did woodwork. One week we did sewing, the next week knitting and so it went on. Balls of white cotton were handed out and we had to knit a dishcloth in garter stitch. Once we had done this satisfactorily we progressed to learning stocking stitch.

                        For the non knitters, garter stitch is where every row is knitted, stocking stitch is one row knit, one row pearl. If you still don't follow this, then perhaps you should borrow a book on knitting or get a friend to teach you how to knit.

                        My first lesson in knitting was several decades ago but I have never forgotten the skill and I am delighted that after years of being out of fashion, knitting is making a come back.

                        Charity shops are full of unwanted knitting needles and balls of wool, so you can start a new hobby very cheaply initially. You don't even need a pattern at first, just cast on a few stitches and experiment.

                        Over the years I have knitted cardigans, sweaters, scarves, tea cosies, slippers, even a dress when they were fashionable. I also knitted numerous little cardigans and hats, mitts and bootees when I was expecting my babies.

                        I am amazed at how much young parents spend today on baby clothes from the designer shops. Babies are much more comfortable in soft woollen clothes, the wool is gentle on their skin and keeps them nice and warm. Why dress a baby in rough denim when this will chafe their delicate skin?

                        Also, of course, knitting baby clothes is far cheaper than buying them. For anyone on a budget who is expecting a baby then get out the knitting needles. It is also a good way of passing the time while you wait patiently for those last few weeks of pregnancy to pass.

                        Knitting is a pastime that can be done while you are watching television or having a natter with friends.

                        Indeed, I have learnt recently that there are now Stitch and Bitch groups where women take along their knitting and have a good gossip!

                        Have you seen those Aran sweaters that were once so popular with fishermen? These were knitted by their women folk, who knew the thick wool would keep out the biting cold. But also, each sweater was knitted in a pattern just for a particular family. That way if a man was drowned at sea, he could be identified by his Aran sweater.

                        Knitting has been a hobby for many generations, like I said I was taught at home and later at school. When I wanted to knit my first sweater I bought a pattern and had to ask relatives what the various abbreviations meant. We had no need of books, everyone knew how to knit.

                        Sadly, it seems a whole generation has missed out on learning to knit. But that looks like changing. Today when out shopping I noticed a knitting set in the toy section of a store. Hopefully some child will be happy to discover a new talent.

                        Maybe this explains the reason for the review category, by the way.

                        Just before I finish I should add that knitting is not just for women. My grandfather was born in a rural area and boys as well as girls were taught to knit, perhaps this was so they could help produce garments for the many cottage industries which provided knitted items for sale.

                        If you want to start knitting, then look around the smaller towns to find a shop selling yarn. Or you could try those charity shops. But please don't let this valuable skill die out completely. I have recently been asked by a young woman to help her learn to knit an intricate pattern as she is making a shawl for her expected baby and hopes it will become a family heirloom. What a brilliant idea!

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                        • More +
                          14.09.2007 11:35
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                          One of England's gems

                          Bath is a city I had only passed through, but recently decided to spend more time there. I was not disappointed in this historic city. There are so many attractions to see and it is full of history. Wandering by the river and through the parks offer pleasant spaces to relax if you need a break from walking in the main streets.

                          Of course, when we were there, the place was packed with tourists, it being a sunny weekend, but even so the place was far from being overcrowded. We were able to wander around at our leisure, taking photos and stopping to look at the historic buildings. It might have also helped in that we followed teh guidebook walking tour in reverse order.

                          I have already written an earlier review on the Roman Baths so will not go into any detail about them, suffice it to say that it is worthwhile visiting them.

                          TOURIST INFORMATION

                          So what else is on offer in Bath? Well, for starters I suggest you pop into the tourist information centre and pick up a leaflet and map, or a small booklet costing a couple of pounds. From these you will be able to follow a map taking you around the major attractions.

                          The Tourist Information Centre is situated in Abbey Chambers, right outside the Abbey, so it is easy to locate. They have lots of leaflets on the different attractions, can help you find accommodation and can help with other queries.

                          I have to say though that I was rather surprised at the somewhat offhand way the assistants spoke to some foreign tourists. Their English was not too good, but the assistant was obviously fed up of being asked the same questions and made her irritation known. Her colleague was the same when asked for her advice. Hopefully this was just the two assistants having an off-day and not the usual manner of dealing with overseas visitors.

                          Bath is on the tourist agenda for visitors from all over the world and I sincerely hope the group of Japanese tourist who asked for advice, didn't think we are all as rude as those assistants. If they don't want to help people, they are in the wrong job!

                          THE ABBEY

                          Anyway, just across the square from the Tourist Information Centre is the abbey. Situated in the centre of the town this is well worth a visit. Photography is permitted inside the abbey. Opening times vary according to the season and there are times when entry is restricted due to services. However, more information is available on their website

                          www.bathabbey.org

                          Outside the abbey there are lots of seats where you can have a short time to relax and gaze at the surrounding buildings.

                          SALLY LUNN

                          Have you ever eaten a Sally Lunn? This is a kind of semi sweet bread bun, and you can visit the Sally Lunn tea shop and take refreshments, with of course, the famous bun. There are different versions of why it is called a Sally Lunn, according to which tourist leaflet you read, but if you visit the Sally Lunn Museum you can see the kitchen which Sally Lunn used over 300 years ago. This is a short walk from the abbey area.

                          ROYAL CRESCENT

                          Towards the other end of town is the Royal Crescent. This is stunning, there are simply no other words to describe this crescent of townhouses. From the outside the curving terrace of houses is a sight of architetural excellence. Although it must be good to live in such splendid houses, I would surely become irritated by the hordes of visitors standing on the pavement outside my front door!

                          If you are curious about what a Georgian house looks like inside, step into No 1 Royal Crescent, looked after by the Bath Preservation Trust. This is now a museum and was the first house to be built in the street. Admire the re-created atmosphere of what life was like in Georgian times by visiting the dining room, bedroom and kitchens. Admission is 5 GBP, less for concessions and children and the house is open from 10.30 am until 5 pm from mid February until the end of November (4 pm close in November), and the museum is open Tuesday to Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays.

                          OTHER MUSEUMS

                          Other museums looked after by the Bath Preservation Trust are The Building of Bath Mseum, Beckford's Tower and the Herschel Museum of Astronomy. Unfortunately we did not have time to visit these, so I cannot comment on what they are like, apart from what is on the tourist leaflets which you can obtain yourself.

                          JANE AUSTEN CENTRE

                          If you are a fan of Jane Austen, then you may already know that she often visited Bath and lived there for five years from 1801 to 1806. Her novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, are set in the city.

                          A Georgian town house in the heart of the city, at 40 Gay Street, is now the Jane Austen Centre. This is open at varying times, according to the time of year. More details are available on the webside www.janeausten.co.uk

                          Inside the house your tour begins with an introductory talk and then you can wander around and explore the exhibits. These include replica costumes of the kind Jane would have worn.

                          There is also a gift shop and tea room at the centre.

                          SPA

                          Of course Bath is a spa town where the waters are said to have healing qualities. You can bathe in the thermal waters at the Thermae bath Spa in the Hetling Pump Room in Hot Bath Street. There are no joining fees or membership charges, but you should check out the website www.thermaebathspa.com for opening times and booking information.

                          Inside there are four bathing pools and a series of steam rooms, with additional spa treatments available. Very therapeutic after a hard day trekking around the sights, and one which I would highly recommend! You can hire bathrobes, towels and slippers so all you have to do is take yourself along and unwind!

                          OTHER INFORMATION

                          In the area around Bath there are various other attractions. Longleat, the safar park is in nearby Warminster. Wookey Hole and Caves, Cheddar Gorge and the Fleet Air Museum are in Somerset, around 20 miles away, making a visit possible when combined with a stay in Bath.

                          Bath is situated a short distance from junction 18 of the M4, along the A46, or along the A4 from Bristol.

                          Car parks rapidly fill up in peak times, so do arrive early if you driving into the city. There are numerous disabled spaces available, but even these involve a walk to see the main attractions.

                          It is best if you can avoid the main tourist seasons if you want to make the best of your visit. Coach parties descend on the town and you may find yourself stuck in a long queue to get into the attractions, or have your photos blocked by groups of visitors. However, as I mentioned earlier in my review, although we visited on a Sunday in August, the place was bustling but not so severely overcrowded that we were unable to enjoy the visit. Apparently Saturdays are the busiest times, and also Bank Holidays.

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                          • More +
                            13.09.2007 19:10
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                            Instead of raising the school leaving age it should be lowered.

                            It is ridiculous to suggest that the school leaving age should be raised to 18. It was bad enough when they raised it to 16. Many teachers will recall the consequences of the ROSLA years, when kids were forced to stay on after they reached 15 and spend another year being disruptive because they didn't want to be at school.

                            Things have not changed much. Now we actually pay kids to stay on at school after the age of 16. True, many of them can't get jobs, or are not interested in working, so they stay on at school purely for the money.

                            The result of this is that kids who genuinely want to stay on at school and study for more qualifications are having their education disrupted. The ones who stay at school purely for the money don't want to study after the age of 16 any more than they did before. This is not fair on the ones who work hard and want to gain more qualifications.

                            And what about the teachers? Anyone who has first hand experience of teaching today in a high school will tell you that it is a battleground. Kids are unruly, teachers are not allowed to discipline them even when they are young. Imagine the backlash from a 17 or 18 year old who hates school. They are adults and deserve to be treated as such, but because they are at school they are still immature, but will claim to be adults.

                            Look at today's pensioners, many of them left school at 14. People approaching 70 left school at 15 after the school leaving age had been raised. I am not saying kids should leave school at 14, but to force them to stay on until they are 18 is to keep them as children too long.

                            Kids today mature earlier than ever before, they should be allowed to grow up and take their place in the adult world once they reach 16, if that is their choice.

                            I know there are high levels of unemployment and not many training schemes available for 16 year old school leavers. But this could be remedied by lowering the retirement age for everyone to 60, instead of raising it. That way school leavers could be trained and have jobs and the elderly could have a longer retirement.

                            It is time the government accepted that not every child is academic. For those it is torture to be made to stay at school and study subjects they are not interested in. Kids develop at different times, some are slower than others at learning, or may have learning disabilities. Often these kids have spent the whole of their life hating being at school and can't wait until they can leave. If they are made to stay on an extra two years they will become disruptive perhaps, or made to feel even more useless than they were before. I am sure many of us have experienced bright kids tormenting the not-so-bright ones in the classroom. These kids might not shine in the class, but allow them to leave and take a job where academic qualifications are not important and they will come into their own.

                            If the reason for making kids stay on at school until they are 18 is purely because of a lack of jobs or training, then we should offer them an alternative to school. Enlist them into the forces for the extra two years, this would teach them discipline and keep them off the streets and that way the genuine keen students could study at school in peace. Or pay them their schooling allowance but make them do voluntary work to earn this.

                            I just cannot see the sense in making today's kids stay on at school until they are adults in every sense of the word. We lowered the coming of age from 21 to 18, but now we want to treat our kids as children for longer.

                            Has anyone asked the schoolkids themselves what they want to do? I don't suppose they have. Someone sitting in an office will have mooted this daft suggestion. If they ask the children I am sure they would realise that most kids hate school and can't wait to leave!

                            Those who left school at 14 in the old days had to get menial jobs and had no qualifications. The brighter ones stayed on until they were 16 and got their school certificate. One thing they all had in common was that they grew up into responsible adults, and that was in a time when the age of maturity was less than it is today.

                            Progress should mean that our kids are able to choose whether or not they stay on at school until they are 18. If they don't have a job or training scheme to go to at 16, then either make it compulsory to spend another two years studying at school and being paid for results, or enlist them into doing something useful for the benefit of the country.

                            In Japan jobs are created to solve their unemployment problems. When you enter a multi storey car park, for example, instead of taking your own ticket from the machine, an attendant does that for you. May sound silly, and I am not suggesting we do the same here, but it is one way of making people work for the money they would otherwise be given for doing nothing except being a nuisance in the 6th form.

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                            • Adoption / Discussion / 56 Readings / 49 Ratings
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                              11.09.2007 18:44
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                              Adoption should not be forced on anyone

                              I have not heard of anyone in Britain offering their baby for adoption for decades. This must be because it is now acceptable for an ummarried girl to keep her baby. I have heard of British couples adopting babies from abroad because apparently there are very few babies for adoption here. Older children yes, but not babies.

                              But what of this scenario? What would you advise? This is something which I have been asked my opinion on by friends of a pregnant girl.

                              The young girl who is pregnant is from a country where having a child out of wedlock is totally unacceptable. Not only that, but they are also very racist. The girl is black, her boyfriend (who has now deserted her, surprise, surprise!) is white, so the baby will be mixed race. She is so worried that the baby will be much paler than she is when it is born and everyone will realise its parentage.

                              I must admit I was quite shocked when I heard about this narrow minded thinking. Perhaps it is because I remember 30 or so years ago when a pregnant girl was either rushed to the altar or was forced to have her baby adopted. And if the child was mixed race (or half caste as it was called then) that was even worse. So, yes, it came as a big shock to learn that there are still countries in the world who have these attitudes even now.

                              Anyway, back to the girl. Her baby is due in January, she is so confused and having the child adopted had never occurred to her, but now she is being pressurised by her peers that this is the best option.

                              When she first realised she was pregnant and told her boyfriend, he made it known he was not interested and persuaded her to have an abortion. She couldn't go through with it, this was against her beliefs. Now, as the pregnancy has progressed, she has come to love her unborn child, even though the boyfriend has disappeared from their lives.

                              Being from overseas the girl is here studying and not eligible for state support for her baby. She has to finish her studies or pay back her fees. How on earth is she going to manage? That is what her friends are asking. Most of them are students too, so they are not able to help financially, but they are giving her lots of moral support.

                              My first concern when I heard was whether the girl had been receiving proper ante natal care, which thankfully she has taken seriously. But what about the birth and caring for a new baby? None of her friends have had this experience so they cannot advise her.

                              Returning to her own country is not an option at the moment as she is too scared to tell her parents about her pregnancy. But someday she will have to return, possibly with a baby. She could tell them she had got married in England and the father has died or divorced her, one friend suggested. But others seem to think she should have the baby adopted.

                              This is a girl who has come to love her child even before it is born. She would make a wonderful mother, but people in her own country would ostracise her if she keeps the child. But how would she cope with having the child adopted?

                              How does anyone cope with making such a decision? It is breaking my heart thinking about it. There must be an alternative surely? But then I remember how things were here in the sixties when an unmarried friend of my sister's was expecting a baby. Hushed whispers from shocked neighbours condemned her. The father was married already which made it even worse as he couldn't be forced into marrying her and when she announced she was keeping her baby, people were astounded.

                              Then of course when the baby arrived, everyone admired it, babies always win people over. They also praised the mother for coping so well on her own. Nowadays it is acceptable in Britain for unmarried mums to keep their babies, so acceptable that it is almost an epidemic.

                              Ah, but these are single mums who get help from the state or who have jobs they can return to when the baby has arrived, taking maternity leave. Yes, of course, it is a struggle financially but they have some income. Not so with the young girl I am concerned about. From what I understand from her friends, she will not be able to receive any kind of benefits and as she is a student she can only work part-time. Then there is the question of childcare and the cost of all those things that babies need. If she can continue with her studies, when she qualifies she will be able to make a good career in a well paid profession and able to support her child. But that is in the future, what happens in the interim?

                              The baby items are being donated by well meaning relatives of her friends, or bought secondhand, so she will at least have the essentials. I feel sure there will be creche facilities at college, but how is she going to feed and clothe a growing child with hardly any income?

                              However, let me return to my original problem - would it be best if she had the baby adopted? I truly believe that we can only present her with the pros and cons on both her options, but I know it will be heartbreaking for her if she has to give up her baby just because her own country has such outdated views.

                              We may condemn single parents in this country for having so many children, but anyone is entitled to one mistake (contraception is not 100%). Surely a mother should not be ostracised because she keeps her baby? Nor should she be made to part with her child and then spend the rest of her life thinking about it.

                              In years to come both mother and child will probably wonder about each other, as we know happens in cases where they trace each other. A friend of mine had her baby adopted in the sixties, none of us knew she had even had this child until he traced her a few years ago. She told us her parents had ushered off to a home for unmarried mothers and when her son was six weeks’ old she had to hand him over for adoption. No choice, no counselling, nothing. She had brought disgrace on her family and nobody mentioned it afterwards.

                              Is this what must happen to the girl my friend knows? I sincerely hope not, but the decision must be hers at the end of the day. I only hope someone can advise her properly on making this decision.

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                              • Car Boot Sales / Discussion / 48 Readings / 48 Ratings
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                                10.09.2007 11:24
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                                Your rubbish can be someone else's treasure.

                                Visiting a friend for the weekend I was informed there was an annual car boot sale in their village, to raise money for the Christmas lights, and would I like to go.

                                I had been to a car boot sale a while ago when I was moving house and wanted to get rid of unwanted items, but never been as a buyer. So here is my experience of car boot sales, both as a buyer and a seller.

                                BUYER

                                "There is nothing I want" I declared as we set off. How wrong that was!!!!! Wow what bargains there were at this village sale. And the good thing was that it started at 10 am and not at some ungodly hour on a Sunday morning.

                                Finding a place to park the car was difficult as all the surrounding streets were jammed solid, but eventually we managed to find one.

                                The field was heaving with people, stalls set up behind their cars (pasting tables being the most popular) or items simply displayed on the ground and hundreds of people browsing.

                                So what was there? Well everything you could think of really!!! And the nice thing about this boot sale was that everyone there was a genuine car booter and not a trader. Not a new item in sight. Everything was secondhand, but some obviously not used. "Unwanted gift" was often the explanation.

                                My friend was looking for items for a young girl she knows who is pregnant and has no money to buy things for her expected baby. It was amazing the number of baby things that were on offer. Prams and pushchairs, cots, clothes, moses baskets. In fact everything you would need for a baby.

                                Some of the items on sale were excellent condition, clean and obviously well cared for. But there were others which had obviously been thrown in after a garage or loft tidy out and these were covered in dust and grime.

                                For example, my friend spotted a baby buggy which was for sale for a tenner. On closer inspection it was obvious that it had not been cleaned - ever!!!!!! The wheels were dirty, which is to be expected, but the seat was covered in ground -in baby food!!!!

                                We wandered further and saw another pram. "Want a pram for a fiver?" the woman asked. "A fiver? What's wrong with it?" my friend wanted to know. "Nothing, but my husband has told me I have to get rid of all this baby stuff and so I daren't go home until I have sold it all." My friend inspected the pram, good condition apart from a bit of dust on the wheels, ideal for a new baby and would last until the toddler stage. Too good to miss so she handed over her fiver. "Would you like a baby bath and bottle steriliser as well?" the stallholder asked. Before we knew it the pram was filled with all kinds of other baby equipment and an assortment of clothes!!!! My friend handed over another tenner, what a bargain!!!!

                                So now our objective of visiting the boot sale had been fulfilled we were free to browse other items. I spied boxes of books - and came away with a carrier bag full for two pounds!

                                Ornaments, kitchen equipment, pictures, videos, bikes and clothing to suit all ages were going for silly prices. Where else would you get a leather jacket, in good condition, for three pounds?

                                And toys! Thousands of them! Suitable for all ages from new baby pram toys to sit on cars for older toddlers. Dolls, doll clothes, action men, trucks; you name it, there it was on the boot sale.

                                Fortunately it was a fine sunny day, stallholders were happy to get rid of their unwanted goods and were not greedy asking silly prices.

                                We left after an hour, the car filled to capacity, the passengers delighted with their purchases and to say I had set off not intending to buy, my purse was empty!

                                SELLER

                                Now for my experience as a seller.

                                Moving house is a good excuse to have a clear out of those items that have accumulated over the years, so we decided to try and raise a few quid and sell at a boot sale.

                                Everything we no longer wanted was loaded into the car and, after getting up at 5 am, we arrived at the boot sale shortly after 6, only to find the place already milling with potential buyers.

                                We found our pitch, set up the pasting table and started to unload the stuff from the car. Within minutes we were surrounded by people peering in the car boot and picking up things and asking the price. We soon realised it was best for one of us to unload and the other to stay by the car until everything was unloaded.

                                Amazingly within the first ten minutes, before our stall was properly set out, we had sold a number of items!

                                The morning wore on, it was a bit chilly but we were well prepared with fleeces and flasks of coffee and folding garden chairs to sit on. By 9 am the area was buzzing with hordes of people looking for a bargain.

                                We sold clothes, curtains, lamps, bedding, tools, kitchen goods, kids' toys, books, videos and as we didn't intend to take anything back with us, sold things for small amounts. Even a few pence was better than nothing.

                                It was quite touching to see children clutching their fifty pence coins and asking the price of books or toys, then seeing their disappointed looks as they realised they couldn't afford what they wanted. "Oh go on then, you can have the lot for 50p" I told them, watching their little faces light up.

                                Well why not? It was stuff my own kids no longer needed so I was happy for another child to have the pleasure of playing with unwanted toys.

                                The day wore on and by 11 am many of the stallholders were packing up and the flow of customers was slowing. Time to go home we decided.

                                A few items remained, we would pack them up and donate them to the charity shop. But first of all we had to clean the stall before putting it in the car boot. Clutching a small dustpan and brush I started to brush away the bits of grass etc from the table. The brush had seen better days and had most of its bristles missing, so would be chucked in the rubbish bin when I had finished.

                                "How much for the brush and pan?" I heard someone ask. Looking up I saw a man holding out his hand to inspect the brush and dustpan. "It has hardly any bristles" I told him, laughingly. Apparently this wasn't a problem and he handed me twenty pence!

                                When we arrived home we counted up our takings, not hundreds, but more than we expected. Not only that, but the experience taught us that people will buy the most amazing things! The bristleless brush was just one item, a bag of candle stubs also sold and bags of rusty nails and screws from the garage were snapped up!

                                We were pleased that not only had we made a few bob, but we had saved some of our rubbish going to landfill and out there was somebody who was pleased with their bargains!

                                CONCLUSION

                                If you want to get rid of surplus items then get up early and go to a boot sale. Ditto if you want a bargain.

                                Some areas have weekly boot sales at a regular venue, others may be advertised in the local press. The bigger boot sales, held on a regular basis, can be more like a market with new goods on sale. I would suggest the smaller, one-off, fund raising boot sales are the best places for bargains.

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                                • Student Safety / Discussion / 50 Readings / 47 Ratings
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                                  24.08.2007 16:51
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                                  Be sensible

                                  In a few weeks' time thousands of students will be leaving home for the first time to go away to university. They will no doubt be feeling very excited and also perhaps apprehensive. There will be lots of things to think about and a priority should be safety.

                                  Safety of the student and of their belongings, so I am passing on some advice here to all students and do hope it will be helpful.

                                  PERSONAL SAFETY

                                  First of all, be sensible about your own personal safety. Your parents have brought you up and looked after you so far, don't throw away all their hard work by not taking care of yourself when you leave home!!! They will be worried enough about if you eating sensibly etc without having to worry if you are safe as well!

                                  Drinking - of course you will drink to excess at some point, but don't leave drinks unattended in case someone spikes them. Hopefully if you do drink too much there will be someone in your group who will help you get home safely. Take care of others around you too and if you see someone worse for drink make an effort to help them get home.

                                  Drugs - well, I am sure you will have been educated on the dangers of these, so the only thing I am saying here is "don't take them".

                                  Travelling - whether it is after a night out or after leaving uni make sure you know how to get home safely. Don't take risks by walking alone through parks or isolated areas.

                                  Make sure you know which bus to take to get you back to your accommodation and check what time the last one leaves.

                                  If you can't get home on public transport, then either arrange to stay with a friend or take a taxi. If you have to take a taxi you will need cash.

                                  This brings me onto my next point - don't carry too much cash around with you (as if!!!!!) and if you use a cashpoint try to do this in daylight and check around to see who is watching you. Follow the usual security precautions, such as not writing down your pin number etc. Don't carry too many credit cards around with you.

                                  When out with friends steer clear of trouble spots. In a strange city you should find out where these are by asking people from uni who have been there longer than you. Follow your own instincts, if a place doesn't feel safe then avoid it.

                                  Don't use your mobile phone in public, especially if it is the latest model. Hide your laptop when carrying it around.

                                  ACCOMMODATION - hopefully you will have had some guidance in choosing accommodation in a safe area.

                                  Make sure you lock the communal entrance after you and check if anyone follows you in, if you are in a block of apartments. Otherwise, make sure you always lock doors into your accommodation and tell your flatmates to do the same.

                                  Don't leave expensive items on display and take out insurance to cover your possessions.

                                  Make sure you close windows at night and if you are out. Fit window locks too.

                                  Buy a few timers and leave a couple of lights on, this will make the accommodation look lived in.

                                  Burglars know when students go home for the holidays. If your flat is going to be empty for a while then put your possessions out of sight or take them with you. If you can't do this, then leave lights on timers.

                                  Suggest your landlord invests in a burglar alarm system and then make sure everyone knows how to use it. Set it at night and when you are out, it is easy to zone areas that are being used all the time.

                                  It is the law that if you are in accommodation with gas appliances that these have been checked by a CORGI registered fitter. You should have a certificated stating the appliances are safe and this has to be renewed annually. If your landlord doesn't provide this s/he is breaking the law and putting your life at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning.

                                  GENERAL

                                  Use your commonsense, up to now your parents have probably taken care of security issues in the home. Now it is up to you. Make sure everyone in your accommodation takes their security seriously. Be careful who you allow into your rooms, especially when you have parties. Have someone checking people who arrive to make sure they are not gatecrashers.

                                  Check ID of any "officials" who come to the door, bogus callers don't just prey on the elderly.

                                  Fit bolts and locks to external doors and windows.


                                  FIRE

                                  Make sure everyone is aware of what to do in case of fire. It makes me cringe when I see students living in houses where the cellars have been made into kitchens. If your accommodation is like this, make sure you have fire blankets and extinguishers handy and make sure there is an opening window or door which could be used in an emergency.

                                  BE SAFE

                                  Lastly, enjoy your studies but do make security and your own personal safety a priority and advise others to do the same.

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