An “alternative” snow picture

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you can’t fail to notice that most of the UK has had some snow. You’ll have noticed this because it’s a fairly unusual occurrence in most parts of the country, so we all get a bit giddy and excitable, schools are closed, people take the day off work and we post ALL the snow pictures over social media.

Excuse me for jumping on the bandwagon, but this one is a little different.

A few years ago the Church of Scientology bought a building in Moseley, where I live, and they’ve just recently finished the grand refurbishment, spending millions of pounds in the process. The good sane majority of people in Moseley don’t welcome the presence of Scientology, mainly down to their cult ways (yes I did say cult!) and their propensity for wangling money out of vulnerable people.

So, it was with much mirth that I and the majority of Moseleyites came across this picture on a local Facebook forum.

Cock off, Scientology!

Church of Scientology Birmingham snow pic

Hope everyone is safe in the snow, and has been building more PC snow figures!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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My morning routine

I don’t trust anyone that says they’re a morning person. How can you be? How is it possible? Mornings are a shock to the system. There you are all nicely cocooned in the safety of sleep, only to be rudely reminded that real life demands your attention.

Weekends are the exception, obvs. Weekend mornings are things of beauty, when you can take your time to come round and re-engage with humanity, maybe having a little snooze or some breakfast in bed. Unless you work weekends.

As a Monday to Friday employee, I have five uninterrupted days of mornings.

Throw having builders working on our home into the mix, and things get messed up a little! There’s the worry that they might turn up early while you’re still in your leopard print dressing gown (me, meeting our new decorator for the first time yesterday morning), your usual routine being cut short by said early arrival (me, putting my make up on at work instead of at home yesterday) the feeling that you need to get out of their way (even though it’s your house – also me yesterday), the upheaval of having to empty rooms meaning you can’t find things (husband, looking for a work shirt this morning).

Currently I try to fit in the previous night’s washing up so we don’t look totally skanky (I never get round to it the night before – I CAN NOT WAIT to have a dishwasher again!), boil eggs for breakfast, pack lunches and snacks for me and the husband (on a good day it’s soup – so easy! Otherwise it’s salad which is more time consuming), shower, choose an outfit (I’m not one of these organised people who plan the night before) and put on a bit of make up. Some days you can add in trying to find my keys or mobile phone, packing up an online shopping order for return, or changing my outfit at the last minute.

All while the husband is seemingly everywhere I want to be (in the shower, ironing in the bedroom, at the sink in the kitchen).

I genuinely don’t know how people with kids ever manage to get out of the door, ever!

On the plus side, all this activity means that we’re getting closer to our home being finished. We’re getting a front door tomorrow, after weeks of having a gaping hole in the front of the house, and I’m definitely more excited about this than I am about Christmas so far!

And my new kitchen gets started on Friday, which will give me a home for my new succulents (and pots and pans, plates and bowls, and cutlery).

Succulent plants

Of course, the end of the project will also mean a new morning routine, as we’ll be living on two levels for the first time in almost 12 years. It’s going to be strange…

Read about our house buying/converting/building journey here

Are you a morning person? Do you plan in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants like me?! I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

 

Reverse advent calendar – for people less fortunate

I recently saw this idea posted by someone on Facebook and thought it would be a really nice way to do something to help others this Christmas.

Advent calendar

The premise is that you get a box, and every day you put in an item of non perishable food – tinned goods, pasta, teabags; that kind of thing – and then you donate it to a food bank so it can be distributed to people who need it.

There’s a couple of impracticalities – the first being that donating it on Christmas Eve doesn’t leave enough time for it to be donated to people to eat over Christmas, and the second that a lot of people don’t go to the shops everyday to buy or put an item in the box. So I’m going to bastardise the idea a little bit, with the same result. I’m going to put together a box of items over the lead up to Christmas, and then donate it the week before so it can reach needy folk ready for the big day.

I’ve also made an early New Years resolution that I’m going to put together a box every month in 2018; helping people not just at Christmas but the whole year through. It’s a travesty that food banks need to exist, and worse that even more people are relying on them, and not just people you may expect, like those who are unemployed or unable to work. There have been news stories about nurses needing to use them to supplement their families, and that’s a shocking state of affairs. The husband and I are lucky to be in a fortunate position, and a few pounds on our shopping bill isn’t going to change our lives, but it could help someone else.

If you’re interested in doing this, I suggest looking into local causes and finding out what they need (food stuffs, personal items, etc). They’ll sometimes offer a collection service, or local supermarkets may have a donation point too. Homeless charities will be grateful for warm clothes and bedding donations, and again are often able to collect.

This is also a great idea for people with children I think, to teach kids the importance of giving, as well as receiving.

Have you ever done anything like this? Let me know your thoughts!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Film recommendation: Vacation

If you’re in the market for a genuinely funny, laugh out loud comedy film that isn’t too long or too challenging – just easy watching and full of giggles, may I recommend Vacation?

Released in 2015 (what? I never said it was a new release!), I’m only aware of it because the husband flagged it to me as something he wanted to watch. As a long time fan of the National Lampoon’s Family Vacation films with Chevy Chase (his favourite Christmas film is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation), he was intrigued to see whether a 21st Century version would have the same comedy genius as the 80s films of his teenage years. Not quite a remake, this version follows Clarke Griswold’s son Rusty, who’s now all grown up and married, with teenage kids of his own. Wanting to recreate the happy family memories of his youth, Rusty and his wife (played by Christina Applegate) and 2 sons set off on a cross country roadtrip to Wally World.

Vacation film

Of course the trip is not without incident; starting before they’ve even driven away in their Albanian hire car, and continuing with Korean sat nav, a cringeworthy paedophile incident, poo and a cameo appearance by the original Griswold parents Clarke and Ellen.

Oh, and Chris Hemsworth is in too, looking mighty fine!

As I said, there are plenty of laugh out loud moments, lots of comedy gold and some scenes borrowed from earlier films; all wrapped up with a modern spin. Great for if you need a break from Christmas films (sacrilege, I know!) or you fancy a backdrop of sunshine rather than snow with your laughs.

Have you seen this film? Let me know!

Thanks, as always, for reading, x

 

A happy travel ending

You may recall a while ago I was pondering about how and where to celebrate my upcoming 40th birthday. After some online research and option weighing, we did decide on Rome. Cue huge amounts of excitement! Flights, hotel and time off work were booked, and we started to look forward to our December Roman holiday.

Monarch flight

Until, just a few weeks later, when I woke up to the news that airline Monarch had gone into liquidation. Guess who our flights were booked with?

Because it was a flight only booking, we weren’t covered under ATOL, but initial reports were that, as I’d booked by credit card, I’d be covered under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. I must admit that I only book flights on a credit card if there’s no fee. If there’s a charge I’ll book through my debit card with my savings and then replace them, but this experience has DEFINITELY taught me a lesson! Off I went to Barclaycard who sent me some forms to fill in detailing my original booking with costs and receipts.

Step 2 was finding some replacement flights. Because the hotel was already booked (non refundable, for the best price obvs) we couldn’t change our travel plans. Unfortunately there were no other direct flights out of Birmingham on the day we were due to travel, and the connecting flights had too long a layover in a connecting airport which would eat into our city break, and be a laborious and patience testing start to my birthday trip (the husband isn’t known for his tolerance). There were flights that fit from Manchester, which would mean staying at an airport hotel overnight, but they were with Ryanair who were having their own issues and cancelling flights left, right and centre due to lack of pilot availability, so I just couldn’t risk it. Having our trip cancelled for a second time wasn’t an option.

Eventually I found flights with EasyJet from Luton. It’s not ideal (our preferred option is always a cab to the airport from home, rather than a 2 hour drive, and Luton’s a pretty grim airport) but the departure flight is earlier than the original Birmingham ones which means more time to enjoy Rome. We’ll travel down the day before, stay overnight near the airport and then check in early doors. The early start means we land at 10.30am, so we’ll be in the centre and seeing the sights by lunchtime.

Phew.

That wasn’t the end of our woes though. As well as our trip to Rome, we’d also booked flights for a long weekend in Palma next May, with my Mother in Law. And the airline was…you guessed it…bloody Monarch! Once again our hotel was booked on a non refundable basis. Replacement flights for this trip were harder to find, because with avoiding Ryanair for the aforementioned reasons, the prices were coming in at £70 extra per person with Jet2. A 40% increase on the original flights is a big chunk to swallow, especially as it meant it would cost my Mother in Law more than I’d promised (or the husband and I would have to pay her share, as well as our own). But, as prices crept up day by day, I just had to bite the bullet and book them.

Back then to Barclaycard. When I was completing my claim forms for them to (hopefully) refund my £731 in Monarch flights, I felt very cross and indignant that the whole thing was leaving me considerably out of pocket. Don’t get me wrong, I do feel for the staff who lost their jobs (and got suitably chastised on Twitter when I complained about the liquidation rather than the wellbeing of Monarch’s employees) but closer to home this was hitting me where it hurts (I could buy new shoes with that extra cash!) And so I cheekily included the additional Palma flight costs on my claim.

Well, bugger me, if Barclaycard haven’t paid up! Yep, they’ve credited the original flight costs, and made an additional payment to cover the extra I’ve had to pay out to Jet2. The beauties!

What’s the moral of the story? I don’t know whether it’s always pay by credit card for financial protection, don’t book non refundable hotels, or chance your luck and be cheeky because you might just get lucky! Either way, hurrah for Barclaycard!

Have you ever had travel plans messed up or rearranged?

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

 

Friday Feeling [23] – well done Australia, part 2

In case you needed proof that Australia did the right thing in voting for the legalisation of gay marriage this week, meet Arthur and John – aged 85 and 89.

Australia’s oldest gay couple to finally marry after 50 years

Together for 50 years, they’e apparently Australia’s oldest gay couple. They’ve no doubt been through homophobia, hatred and people not wanting to mix with them purely because of their sexual preference, but they’ve stuck together.

Why?

Love!

They’ll finally be able to recognise their love and commitment through marriage.

Read their story here.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

My house just had it’s Pinocchio moment!

When we bought our house earlier this year, it certainly wasn’t for it’s charming good looks!

In fact, it was such a strange building that we’d been scrolling past it on RightMove for almost 4 months, dismissing it completely out of hand. It was in the postcode we wanted, but that’s where the appeal ended. It was marketed as a 2 bedroom apartment with a private garden and 3 garages. And it looked like this.

Our house when we bought it

We assumed that, as an apartment, it would be leasehold; that it was some type of commercial property; and that the 3 garages were probably rented out or, if not, what the hell were they there for?! Plus we were moving out of a 2 bedroom place, and specifically wanted a 3 bed.

It wasn’t until the husband, in a fit of back to work after Christmas boredom, had a proper look at it that it even became a possibility. He came home from work and told me it was actually freehold, all of the garages belonged to and were being sold with the property and, looking on Google maps, it was in a very secluded area. Also, it had potential for planning permission. Bubbles of excitement started to develop.

The other thing to say here is that we had a very limited search area. When Phil & Kirsty talk about Location, Location, Location – we embody that! We had perhaps a square mile area where we wanted to live, and we were struggling to consider other towns or locations. The problem with that square mile area was that there weren’t really many properties that matched our needs. There’s lots of flats (which, as I say, we were moving away from), lots of Victorian houses which don’t have a garage (essential for the husband’s Harley) and very poor street parking which is high in demand, and lots of really big multi bedroom houses which were way way out of our price range. There really weren’t a lot of properties which were going to meet our (strict) requirements.

So, when the funny apartment with 3 garages started to tick some boxes, we began to wonder whether, in the absence of something available that matched our wants and needs, we could actually part build something instead?

I won’t bore you with the tumultuous offer process, estate agent dealings or price negotiations. Or the planning permission, rules and regulations. Obviously there was a happy ending because we bought the property, and we’re now making it into a traditional house. We’re converting the double garage (leaving the 3rd garage in place for the husband’s motorbike), knocking that through into what was a really big porch, and building an extension to the side which will open out on to the garden. Downstairs will be fully open plan, with an L shaped kitchen and lounge area in the (former) garage, a dining space in the extension, and the large hall/walkway up for discussion! The layout of upstairs will remain the same, but we’ll repurpose the space – what’s currently the lounge will become our bedroom, the kitchen will be a laundry/utility room, and we’ll have 2 more bedrooms and the bathroom as is.

The builders have been on site for 5 weeks and it’s been a stressful and exciting time. Every morning at 8am we hear them starting work and every evening we get home wondering what will have changed that day. On the plus side, because the property was a 2 bedroom apartment, we’re living relatively undisturbed upstairs with no building mess or interruption (although we still have a lot of boxes and bags that we didn’t unpack after the move because we didn’t have space to put everything!)

You’re probably wondering about the Pinocchio moment I mentioned in the title of this post? Remember when Pinocchio the puppet gets his wish, turns to Geppetto and says “look, I’m a real boy!”

Pinocchio I'm a real boy

Well, where once was 2 garage doors is now 2 proper, double glazed, uPVC framed opening windows. And we have the rudiments of a canopy over what will be our new front door. I feel like our property is saying “look, people who saw past the weirdness, I’m a real house!”

Our house now

Unfortunately, for now, that’s as far as it goes, because we have to wait for the extension glazing and the front door to be manufactured, delivered and fitted. The builders have downed tools for a few weeks because they can’t proceed with doing anything inside until everything is watertight. But we’ve picked and ordered our kitchen and worktops, interior doors and flooring, and it’s SO EXCITING! Still clinging on to the hope that we’ll be done before Christmas (god knows I’ll be cracking the whip on those builders!) and then I get to do all the exciting stuff like cushions and pictures and pretties, which is far more interesting than plasterboard and wall insulation.

When we moved into the flat 11 and a half years ago, we had a bit of work done then – redesigned kitchen and an interior wall knocked down. It was so stressful and messy that we swore we’d never move anywhere that needed big work doing again. You can see how that vow worked out!

I’m sure I’ll be boring bombarding you with lots more pictures in the weeks to come, as we start the decorating and dressing of the new rooms!

Have you ever taken on a building project? Done lots of work to a property? Let me know!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

 

Well done Australia!

I was thrilled to wake up to the news that 2/3rds of Australians have voted in favour of gay marriage being made legal.

Well done Australia

Amazing news for gay people, for morality and for common sense. To stop people from marrying just because they have the same genitals is bonkers.

I read a story recently, where a 12 year old boy was marching in favour of gay marriage so he can marry Chris Hemsworth when he grows up.

Marry Chris Hemsworth

Not sure Chris will be available, but at least this young boy will now grow up in a country where he has the freedom to meet and marry the man of his dreams.

Love is love!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

The latest Dignity in Dying campaign and research

Today, Dignity in Dying have released their latest research into public support for a change in the law, to allow terminally ill people to choose when to end their life based on their own pain and experiences.

I’m a staunch supporter of the charity and have blogged previously about why I support them, the work they do, and why they do it. My Dad was denied the chance to go to Dignitas for a dignified end to his life on his terms, thanks to his doctor blocking access to his medical records on ethical and legal grounds. In truth, he shouldn’t have had to consider going to another country, like some kind of criminal. The option for assisted dying in his own home, surrounded by family and loved ones, should be a basic human right.

When Dad died, we asked for donations rather than flowers at his funeral. People were incredibly generous, and we were able to make a sizeable donation to Dignity in Dying, in Dad’s honour. Through this, Dad’s wife Julie started a dialogue with them around Dad’s circumstances, and they asked if she’d be interested in helping them to raise the profile of why a change in the law is needed, to which she readily agreed.

I’m so proud of Julie for getting involved and sharing her story, especially as it’s only just over a year since my Dad passed away. It’s still very raw for her, and reliving it is hard. But she feels very strongly about helping the charity and contributing to a very worthwhile cause, and wants to do whatever she can in Dad’s memory.

Such is the strength of Julie’s story, that DiD have made her the current face of their campaign. She’s on the homepage of their website, and 2 of her videos feature on the research page, alongside other people who have been in similar situations.

Dignity in Dying - the true cost of outsourcing death to Dignitas

All we’re asking for is choice. The choice for people to live their life for as long as they are able, and the choice to end it when the pain and suffering is too much.

If you feel strongly about the right for choice and would like to support Dignity in Dying, you can make a one off donation or set up a monthly donation via the giving page on their website. You can also become a member for regular updates.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x