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Cleared for take off :)

Cleared for take off :)

Well there have been no further recurrence of the mini strokes that I experienced, my ecg results were fine, MRI scan showed no permanent damage, cholesterol results, that I was initially told were 11.6 actually turned out to be 5.6 – still high but not unbelievably, dangerously high and blood pressure is down.

And all that means I can drive again WOO HOO. Sadly, it also means I don’t have to work from home any more so I am back in the office from Tuesday BOO. Although my consultant did suggest I ought to work from home more often … I wonder what would happen if I suggested it :) Might be worth mentioning.

Anyway, other than having to see the GP on Wednesday, I am clear of medical appointments for three months when blood tests need to be done again to see if anything has changed. In the meantime I intend to continue with the health kick – low cholesterol/fat healthy diet and lots of walking. Oh and I can go back on the list to have my hernia operation now.

The thing I am most pleased about is I am still not smoking. According to the app on my phone it has now been 43 days, 11 hours and 48 minutes and this has saved me £333.26.

Quite where the money has gone I am not sure, because I am certainly not any better off at the moment. All I can say for sure is I am slightly (very slightly) less debt ridden.

I am sure the financial benefits will come at some point. Although I am spending a fair amount in prescription charges instead now!

And dental treatment – although I had the final piece of dental work done last week, so now I am clear until the next six month check up. There is progress after all. Slow and steady wins the race.

So what have I been up to for the last few weeks?

Well I have been working from home but that means the housework keeps up to date as well.

I’ve taken to walking on the Common a fair bit when the weather hasn’t  been diabolical. I have watched every single episode of every series of Criminal Minds and got through the first two and a half series of Merlin.

I have rediscovered my interest in cooking. I am eating loads but it’s much healthier than it was. If it doesn’t involve oats or lentils, I don’t want to know lol. No, it’s not quite that bad but I do actually love fruit, vegetables, beans and pulses and whole grains etc etc so I am making an effort to use them. My ten bean chilli is gorgeous, as is a recipe I discovered/adapted for apple, oat and honey cookies made with no sugar and no butter yum.

At some point, also given the increased levels of activity, I am hoping the weight will start falling off. At the moment, I am just happy to have lost a few pounds despite the fact I have stopped smoking.

Man has been down to look after me for a couple of long weekends and on Friday I drove to his in Nottingham for the first time for ages and ages.

I have been trying to capture lots of different birds with my camera as I have been on my wanders on the common (although it was lovely to be able to go a bit further afield and visit Attenborough Nature Reserve yesterday) and this has become a bit of an additional hobby.

I’ve also read a bit.

I haven’t been able to get out to see any more churches, but now I’m back on the road again, who knows :).

And I think it’s time to start blogging again.

So here’s some of my birdy photos … rest assured there will be more pictures to follow :)

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I have a new hero.

His name is Peter Bolton King and he works for the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

The RICS is calling on the Government to regulate lettings agents.

YES, there is justice after all.

A clampdown on practices is needed to prevent the private lettings sector turning into “the property industry’s Wild West” says the RICS.

Peter Bolton King, global residential director at the organisation, said: “A good lettings agent can be worth their weight in gold for both landlord and tenant.

“However, there are too many corrupt agents that do not belong to any professional body who are taking advantage of the current gap in regulation, putting customers at risk.

“What we would like to see is the Government taking direct action on this and introducing a single regulatory and redress system for both sales and lettings agents to make sure they are fully accountable.”

Yes, yes, yes.

In the three and a half years we have been privately renting houses, we have dealt with three landlords and three lettings agents.

The first landlord was declared bankrupt the month after we moved in. The lettings agent didn’t tell us. We dutifully paid our rent for a year and then I came home from work one day to find a letter from the county court which said “the house you are living in will be repossessed in four weeks.”

The letting agent hadn’t told us and when I called them to ask what was going on some daft child said :”If it’s any consolation, you are not the only people this has happened to, another tenant on our books has had the same thing.”

Bizarrely, that wasn’t much of a consolation for me or probably the other tenant either.

The second letting agent – the house we moved out of two months ago – did nothing about anything and just sat back and took the money – and my god you should have seen the list of fees and charges. It took me two months to get the plumbing sorted out, they didn’t return calls or emails, the three monthly checks that were meant to be done happened once in 24 months (curiously three months before we moved out, about the same time the landlord said he was going to let the house to a relative and wanted us out). They withheld three quarters of my deposit for disputed reasons and even charged us for releasing a reference to the new lettings agent.

An example of their complete disinterest and lethargy was that the To Let sign that was there when we moved in, was still there the day we moved out 25 months later – they couldn’t even be bothered to pick it up.

In contrast, the lettings agents we are currently with seem lovely – friendly, helpful and the To Let board was outside the property for about three days before they came and collected it. I live in hope they will be among the ones that are “worth their weight in gold”.

In the meantime, Mr Peter Bolton King and colleagues at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, I applaud you.

Many apologies before I even begin because today I am quite blatantly going to just moan.

I am absolutely sick of businesses being able to hijack people’s money and hold on to it ad infinitum … and there doesn’t seem to be anything people can do about it.

We moved house recently, from one privately rented house to another. The houses were operated by two different lettings agents.

In order to be allowed to let the new house, the new lettings agents required references for myself and gorgeous daughters number one and two. They used an external agency who charged £120 per person plus VAT for the privilege.

Now these references involved an email to the current lettings agency and emails to each of our employers to check our salaries.

The girls both work at the same company.

So one email to their firm, one to mine and one to the lettings agent – we are the best part of £400 out of pocket.

But to add insult to injury, the old lettings agent would not release the references until we had paid them £25 per person plus VAT.

So that’s four emails in total and it cost £500! Is it me, or is this just legalised theft?

Now, the old lettings agent is holding on to our original £1,300 deposit.

I had agreed to pay for professional carpet cleaning and window cleaning (roughly £200) but they are now trying to charge me £200 to fill a couple of holes in two door frames (where coat hooks had rubbed) and £400 to replace the carpets downstairs because, they claim, they stink of our cats, which I dispute. (despite two lots of professional carpet cleaning and odour control).

But, here’s the thing. New tenants moved in three days after we moved out and seem to be living there quite happily. And on the two occasions I have returned to the house since moving out to collect post (the last time being yesterday) the carpet quite obviously has not been replaced. It is still there, I can see it.

Basically the carpet was old and threadbare when we moved in – it was only a cheap carpet anyway – and the landlord appears to just fancy replacing it and we are being told to pick up the tab.

I have refused and will take them to court if I have to.

Yesterday I asked the old letting agent to return that part of my deposit that was not in dispute – about £450.

To enable them to do that I apparently have to pay £25 plus VAT!

To say I am angry is an understatement. I have no idea why these companies can be allowed to get away with such outrageous charges and practices.

On a much more positive note, I received a post from America yesterday with next year’s calendar for the children’s eye health foundation.

That’s my photo :) I am February. I was very excited.

And this is what I came home from Man’s to on Monday.

Pud had made me a birthday cake – how fabulous is that? :)

 

 

I have absolutely loved watching the Olympics. From the opening ceremony to the closing one and all the excitement in between it has been brilliant.

Not only did the GB team win more medals than ever in living memory, the Games have just seemed to inspire a national pride that has been missing for a long time.

It started, I suppose, with the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations. Now I know a lot of people think the Royal Family are a waste of money but I happen to like them.

I like the fact that there is tradition and history in our country and I don’t think they do a bad job at all.

The celebrations for the Jubilee, followed so quickly by the Olympics, seem to have made people remember that actually, this isn’t a bad place to live after all. Sometimes as a nation we are quite good at stuff and I think we were quite brilliant at staging the Olympic Games.

I’ve had a pretty busy weekend this weekend – car boot sale (lots of money made, lots of rubbish got rid of), Hoof Fest in aid of Adam’s Hoofing Hut, my brother’s 40th birthday. Yesterday I cashed in yet another loose change pot and paid that in to The Pot along with the boot fair earnings, I collected a parcel for gorgeous daughter number 2, viewed a house (not really suitable) and helped Wallace the gardener remove the two spare sofas from my garden.

But I missed watching the Olympics on my day off. TV has gone back to being boring, which is probably why I barely watch it usually.

When I was at Hoof Fest on Saturday I spotted some wakeboarders on the lake and took the opportunity to take some photos of them.

I’ve never really attempted action shots before, so I thought I’d have a go and see what happened.

I was quite pleased with some of the shots (and some of them were completely useless lol).

I’ve a feeling it is going to be a busy week this week too. I always seem to be chasing my tail, there is never enough time to do everything. Needless to say it was the housework I missed out this weekend!

I really have to start doing some work on the HubPages I’ve set up and I haven’t printed off the photos for the pub landlord from the Open Mic Night last week yet. I promised I would write an article for the newspaper on Hoof Fest and submit some photographs and I’ve got to find somewhere to live. Oh, and work demands some attention too.

I suppose it will all get done at some point.

It’s a shame about this one. I just didn’t have time to pan out a little bit cos he was moving a bit too fast (speedboat and acrobatics combined).

Not bad for a first effort though.

 

 

 

Crafty stuff for sale.

I’m not really bothered about money, I never have been, which is probably why I’ve never got any.

As far as I am concerned, money has one use – to buy stuff and, as I’m not really into ‘stuff’ as in material possessions, money has never been that important.

As long as have enough money to pay the bills vaguely on time (I’m not bothered about them being precisely on time) and have a little bit left for mine and Man’s road trips, that’s really all I’ve needed.

So this saving money in a pot thing (not literally in a pot) for a deposit on a house is a new thing for me. I’ve NEVER had savings.

A car boot sale bright and early (about 7am)

Well this week the savings topped the £250 and then Man earned around £50 selling his old xbox 360 games on eBay and so this morning I thought I would go off and sell some of my valuable possessions (rubbish) to unsuspecting passers by at a car boot sale.

This would have the added bonus of clearing some unnecessary crap from my house so I don’t have to hump it from one place to another when we have to move out next month (still haven’t found anywhere to live by the way).

So, my morning started off well. I left the house wearing odd shoes.

Not just slightly odd, they weren’t both black or anything, one was bright red and the other one was navy blue!

Luckily I noticed before I got to the car boot sale and returned home to change them.

I was selling some old tools and dvds, craft stuff that I am never going to get round to doing anything with, that sort of thing. I was on the phone when one lady asked me how much a very large, full spool of ribbon was. I said £1. She asked me if I would take 50p. I said no, it was a huge spool of ribbon, very expensive and well worth £1.

I turned round to get something out of the car and when I turned back, lady had gone, ribbon had gone and there was 50p sitting on the table. I’m sure I would have found that very rude if it hadn’t also been quite amusing :). I have a picture in my head of her tucking the ribbon into her sari and dashing out of the boot fair before I noticed.

Lady opposite me was selling hats.

Gorgeous daughter number 2 arrived and went and bought me some breakfast and a coffee about 9.30am (after she had phoned me twice because she got lost) and asked what I had done to my top.

I looked down and there was a two inch rip in it straight down the middle. I have now clue how I did that and it was a very old top but by the time I left there were three rips in it!

Really, what is it with me and clothes? I can’t keep them clean or in one piece!

Gorgeous daughter number one also turned up with her boyfriend a little later and supplied a cold can of diet coke, which was very welcome, and I had a lovely time chatting to people as they browsed.

It was a successful morning and I managed to get rid of a  lot of rubbish AND I made £81.60 profit after taking out the £7 pitch fee. Woo hoo :). This will put us alarmingly close to the £400 mark I think.

It will be going in to the pot on Monday. The cashier at the bank is going to love me when she has to count up all those 20pence pieces.

 

 

Morning Stanley.

Well I finally bit the bullet and submitted some photos to the stock photo agency Shutterstock for consideration.

And now I am as nervous as hell to see whether or not they are accepted.

The criteria are quite strict and the quality needs to be really good and I am just not sure the ten pictures they asked for as an initial submission are going to make the grade.

I shall be waiting on tenterhooks until the end of the week to see if any of them are accepted.

If they’re not, hopefully I will get some feedback on what I have to improve to make the grade.

As I’ve said before, this isn’t a get rich quick plan.

I was reading an article in a photographic magazine a couple of weeks ago and the author reckons he made about £1,200 a month from this one agency.

But he has been doing it for years, is a professional photographer and has a library of about 1,000 photos on the site.

This is yet another work in progress. We’ll see how it goes. Fingers are crossed.

Now today the light is perfect, it’s a beautiful day and I would love to grab my camera and head out into the wide blue yonder.

Sadly, despite it being my day off, I have to work.

Annual Performance Reviews are due at work. I have nine of them to do by Friday and I’ve done two so far so I’m working this morning to get some more out of the way. I also have dental appointments today and Friday afternoons so instead of having a day off today, I am having the afternoon off today and Friday.

And then I am off for two whole weeks woo hoo. Heading up to Man’s house on Friday and then we will come down here for the second week. I am so looking forward to it.

The gorgeous daughters and I visited their grandparents yesterday. It is good to be able to do that. We had little contact with them between my ex husband being released from prison and his death a couple of months ago.

It is good to be able to renew our relationship with them, even though it is through such sad circumstances.

My former father in law shares a birthday with daughter number one. They were glad to see us. I took some family photos, because we haven’t had any for three years. They all looked so happy.

And there is a minor bidding war on my latest eBay item. It is up to £5 with a full day left to go.

More money for the pot. It’s adding up slowly but surely.

Sun is shining again – even if it might be only briefly. Although the photo is an old one I took in Norway years ago. My garden doesn’t look like that this morning, sadly.

Yesterday started at the dentist, bright and early – 8am.

I had a very grumpy, middle aged dental nurse who sounded eastern European.

Now daughter number 1 is a dental nurse (I don’t go to her dentist because he’s very expensive and there’s something vaguely disconcerting about your daughter sucking your spit). I know she is friendly and professional at work though.

Now Hilda (probably not her name) was something out of a farce. This is what happened.

Dentist: Can I have some syringes please.

Hilda: They in drawer.

Dentist: No they’re not, can you get some please.

Hilda: They in drawer.

Dentist: No, they’re not.

Hilda opens the drawer with a crash and gazes at its emptiness.

Hilda: I put them in drawer.

Dentist: Well, they’re not there now, can you get some.

With much clattering of equipment and doors, Hilda stomps off, returns with the syringes and work begins on my fillings.

After the holes have been drilled, dentist wants the filling stuff made up to put into them. This is done in a little machine thing.

Hilda: It no fit.

Dentist: Pardon?

Hilda: It no fit in machine, it no work.

Hilda stomps off, crashing the door behind her and the dentist leans over me, puts the stuff in the machine and when Hilda stomps back, he is already sticking the stuff in my tooth.

Hilda: Where you get that?

Dentist: From the machine.

Hilda: It no fit, it no work.

Dentist: It does fit

Hilda: It no fit, I got more.

Dentist: It does fit, I’m using it now.

Hilda: How you do that?

Dentist: I followed the pictures on the front.

Hilda: No, it no work.

Dentist: I’ll show you later!

And all the time I’m sitting there opening wide with a mirror on a stick stuck in my mouth trying not to laugh.

I might be getting a car. Buying my company car. Lovely daughter number 2 has offered to lend me the money to buy it.

I know, this is the wrong way around, the teenager lending the parent the money to buy a car. But she always has been the grown up in our family.

My company car is due to be replaced but I like the one I’ve got. I need a car for when I do stop working there.

My tax will be better, my car has just had new brakes, a new catalytic converter, a new tyre, full service, a year’s MOT and a year’s tax. And they are offering it cheaper than I would get on the open market. I’m excited.

And my camera is ready. Woo hoo.

I said I would pick it up on Saturday but I think I will probably slope off from work for an hour and go pick it up today.

I’ve missed it.