Monday, 31 December 2018

Should I Invest in an ISA?

ISA’s or in full, Individual Savings Accounts have been for many years an essential tool for saving tax-free both in cash and stocks and shares. Many banks and building societies offered better rates for ISA’s to attract the longer term saver and keep them as customers.

However, times change and since the banking crisis, we all know that interest rates fell to incredibly low levels or even in some cases zero interest on our savings.

There have been other changes too that now affect our decisions, not least that every basic rate taxpayer can receive up to £1,000 in interest tax-free each year. The majority of savers here in the UK can perhaps only dream of getting anything in excess of that amount in a year from their savings. ISA’s have varied over the years as to how much you can save each year, but it now stands at 2018/19 tax year at £20,000.

Higher rate taxpayers don’t have this allowance so the way they will choose their savings accounts will be different.

There are also special ISA’s that have a lower investment limit, such as Lifetime ISA’s which is currently £4,000 and Help to Buy ISA’s at £3,400. These ISA’s though do have something added which is a 25% top up from the Government to encourage you to save. The rules don’t allow you to contribute to other cash ISA’s in the same tax year if you take one of these out bit of course if this is going to help you but your first home that 25% bonus is worth considering.

Standard cash ISA’s

If you are not likely to pay any tax on your savings or saving for your first home, the best account for you is one that is going to pay the most interest whether that is an ISA or not. For higher rate taxpayers you will need to calculate the interest you would receive from comparable accounts and take the tax into account as to which would be the best for you.

Stocks and Shares ISA's

For stocks and shares ISA’s it is not possible to compare returns for the future but you might wish to carefully look at how well the funds have been performing, comparing like with like. For example, if you are looking at low/medium risk UK fund don’t compare past returns against a higher risk Asia fund.

ISA’s today do have a place, however, it has to be said that it might be quite likely that by regularly opening new accounts and getting introductory offers, other savings accounts can be better whether you are a standard or higher rate taxpayer. It pays to shop around, do your research and basic maths.

Friday, 21 December 2018

Visit Hillbrush



Visit Hillbrush, Visitor Centre, Museum and Restaurant Mere Wiltshire

I am always looking for interesting places to visit and was pleased to discover Hillbrush, Mere in Wiltshire.

Hillbrush - Brush Manufacturers


Hillbrush is a brush manufacturer established in the lovely little town of Mere in 1922. They have recently built a new factory and visitor centre, which includes a restaurant, quality gift shop, artisan coffee bar and museum. There is also a south facing terrace where on a day with good weather you can eat outside and dogs are welcome in this area. Admission is free and there is free parking and free charging for electric cars.

Perhaps we all take brushes for granted but they are a vital part of everyday life and every home must contain dozens of different types of brushes for many different purposes. Stop and think for a moment as to how many you might have! The visitor area and museum will show you some of the types of brushes we use and how they are made today and in the past.

It's encouraging to see that a manufacturing business in the UK is doing well and has not been relocated to China or some other distant part of the world. The company founded by Fred and Bill Coward in 1922 has grown over the years and although originally they specialised in the production of dairy and agricultural brushes soon moved into making sweeping brushes. Many of the streets in the UK were then being swept clean by brushes made by Hillbrush in Mere. Today, Hillbrush manufacture many specialist brushes for the food production and catering industry.

Hillbrush Brush Factory and Visitor Centre Mere Wiltshire


With the building of the new factory, I think that it was a really good idea to open the restaurant and visitor centre. The food in the restaurant is locally sourced and is of excellent quality. The restaurant has a 5 Star Food Hygiene rating which you might have guessed if you visited without seeing that fact in print. The staff are very well trained, enthusiastic and a pleasure to be served by.



Visit Hillbrush restaurant mere wiltshireI really enjoyed eating here and the food is well presented and good value. There are options for vegetarians, gluten-free and a kids menu. What did I eat? For me it was the Somerset Beef Burger in a Brioche Bun with French Fries and Coleslaw, followed by Warm Chocolate Brownie and Ice Cream. It was excellent! Here is a link to the restaurant page on the website so you can take a look at what Visit Hillbrush is offering customers to whet your appetite.

I hope that you will take a trip to Visit Hillbrush when you are in the area, it's not far from the A303 passing through Wiltshire so makes an ideal resting point if you take the Mere turn off. Hillbrush is also close to The National Trust's Stourhead House & Gardens which is a beautiful place to visit. For more information here is a link to a post that I have written. Click here.

If you have any comments please leave them in the box below and do subscribe to this blog to be notified of future posts.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Further of Farther?

Being a blogger I write many words during the course of a year and in daily life speak even more. I have always been interested in learning new words and using them correctly. It's always a challenge as often we hear and see words used incorrectly, even by those we might think would know better. This has encouraged me to write, not just today but also in the future more posts about words and their meaning and use.

In this post, we start with when to use further or farther.

Further or Farther?

These are 2 words that get interchanged quite regularly in everyday speech. In addition, there is furthest and farthest. How can we know which word to use when both seem to indicate distance?

Well, firstly, take a look at the difference in spelling, particularly the first 3 letters. The second spelling includes the word 'far' which we associate with distance as in travel. Due to this in American English, Farther and Farthest tend to be used when comparing physical distances as in, 'the farthest planet from the sun'.  Whereas, further and furthest are used to compare figurative and non-physical differences, for example, "this is the furthest this stock has ever risen".

In the UK, the two words, according to the English Oxford LIving Dictionary are both correct and fully interchangeable so there is no need worry. Just use the word that is common in the sense that you are using it or sounds better when you say it.

Friday, 14 December 2018

Why I Love Non-League Football

Throughout the UK millions of people take part in football. The majority are involved in amateur leagues and take part because of their love of the game and not financial rewards. The teams are also supported by an army of volunteers who support the team in many different roles.

This is so different from the way that the top teams in football are run with players and managers commanding millions of pounds in salaries and a huge highly paid backroom staff to assist. Despite getting paid so well you can attend a professional football match only to find that some of the players don't have their heart in the game for whatever reason, something you're unlikely to see at an amateur level.


For a number of years, I have been supporting a non-league club, Warminster Town F.C. who play their games at Weymouth Street, Warminster, Wiltshire. This is a community club with unpaid players and they play in The Western League, Division One.

There is actually a good standard of play in this league and provides supporters with a low-cost game of football to watch, Support is growing for the club and attendances compared to professional football are low they are increasing as more people discover the joy of non-league football and a family-friendly atmosphere.

The more matches I have been to, the more I have grown to love the club and football. To this end, I created a supporters blog, podcast and also broadcast most of the games live on our Youtube Channel. I also write the match reports for The Warminster Journal and following games on a Saturday have an interview slot on WCR FM Radio. it all keeps me busy!

If you would like to follow the adventures of Warminster Town please do subscribe to the podcast and YouTube Channel.


For our latest podcast click below to play.



Thursday, 13 December 2018

How to Cure Boredom

I’m bored!


This seems to be the cry of many youngsters these days. Despite living in a world full of things to do, many of us, not just teenagers seem to get bored easily.

There are many things that cause boredom. It might be having nothing to do or doing something that is repetitive over a long period of time. It can also be a lack of imagination and even laziness. Some people can get more easily bored than others and what is boring to one person will not be to another.

To cure boredom you need to look at the root cause as to why you’re bored.


How to cure boredom


If your boredom is caused because you don’t have anything to do there is a simple solution. Find something to do! There is an almost limitless amount of things to do many of which don’t cost a penny! If you have can’t think of something for yourself be more altruistic and go and help someone in need or just visit or phone to cheer them up.

For those people that are out of work, it would be wise to use the time to look for a job in a business-like way. By that, I mean scheduling tasks that need to be done and making sure you complete those.

Those tasks can, for example, be broken down into the following:

  • Search job boards / call employment agencies
  • Apply for job
  • Contact by phone companies that you would be interested in working for
  • Visit companies in person and ask if they have vacancies either now or coming up
  • Contact people you know that and let them know you are looking for work
  • Use social media to let people know that you are looking for employment
  • Follow up on previous calls that you have made

It would be good to make sure that you keep good records of every job that you have applied for and list the people that you speak to. This will enable you to plan when you should follow up, who to call and will give you plenty of productive things to do each day.

For those that are retired and bored it would be good to look for groups or clubs that you could join. There are also many charities that need volunteers and many of the skills that you have could be put to good use in the community. Retired people that keep both mentally and physically active lead far happier and longer lives than those who succumb to boredom. If you are retired wondering what to do, why not make a list of all those things that you used to say that “if only I had the time” when you were working. There are so many hobbies and interests that can be pursued even at little or no cost.


Boredom can be a state of mind


Boredom can be a state of mind and might even be masking depression which prevents people from taking action. Why not try and change that state of mind and become more active. A simple activity like a daily walk will work wonders!

What about all those people that are in work that is boring to them and brings little if no satisfaction. Sadly there are many jobs today that are like that. A change of employment could help so do take the time to avail yourself of any extra training that your employer will provide which could then result in a change of position where you currently work or make it easier to find employment elsewhere.

Some people seem to cope with a boring job because they simply see it as a means to an end. The money they earn is being used or saved for something far more interesting. It could be that you need to change your mental attitude and look at your job in a different way. There are some boring jobs that could be made much more interesting, so do look for ways that could improve your job.

There might be reasons why you can say 'I’m bored' but there are probably thousands of ways that can end boredom. Please share in the comments box below reasons why you’re not bored!

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Less is More

It is often said that less is more. This can be in the way we use words, for example, public speakers and writers are advised not to complicate what they say or write by using too many words. Short sentences which are to the point are easier to understand.

There is also a growing group of people that have downsized and have less materially, who believe that such a lifestyle gives them more quality of life. You might have seen on the TV or within social media the tiny house movement, where people are living in quite small homes, many of which are built on trailers. These homes whether built of traditional materials or something completely different are certainly interesting designs in which small spaces can be maximised.

There are many benefits to adopting a principle of less is more. In the case above, a smaller home can cost less to buy or rent, and less to heat and maintain. It takes less time to look after as well as the cost, leaving you free to do other things that can be more beneficial to your health and overall well-being. With fewer things to worry about and maintain other than a home, can bring you a freedom that would not otherwise be possible.

With the principle of less is more you might have to change your mindset in many ways. For example, you might be the kind of person that buys a lot of clothes and frankly, in many parts of the world, there are some very cheap items of clothing. This can give you a large wardrobe to select from which of course in itself takes time and effort to look after and usually cheap clothes don’t always last very long. It can be better, therefore, to spend more on some good quality items that will wear and clean better than the lower cost alternatives and will work out to be better value in the long term.

This, of course, does not mean buying the most expensive items made but those that are of good quality without being a "designer label” price.

With many of the things we buy and use in daily life, I am sure that many of us have at times tried to save money by buying something cheap. Fairly soon though we find that it either didn’t last long or wouldn’t do the job it was supposed to do properly. That item wasted our money and caused us to buy a replacement. A good kitchen knife can cost quite a lot but if it lasts longer, cuts quicker and is safer to use that’s a good thing. One purchase, rather than several over the years fits the principle of less is more.

Employment: Less is More


Recent studies have shown that employers who reduce the working week to 4 days (on the same salary) for their employees have seen an increase in productivity better than achieved over 5 days. For these employers, less is certainly proving to be more. There are good reasons for this. A happy and refreshed workforce can be more productive than one which is tired and struggling. The extra day off creates the ability for the employees to have more energy and a willingness to get things done in the time allotted out of respect for what their employer is doing for them.

Health: Less is More


Having a simpler life can reduce stress. We have fewer possessions to worry about, less expense and more time to enjoy things that really matter. We can develop a mindset that prevents us from being manipulated by the commercial world into always wanting the next 'must have' gadget. People today are under pressure to conform, if you haven't got this or that you can't be happy is the mantra. That's just plain wrong! You can be happy with very little. Happiness does not, never has and never will depend on having more and more possessions. Don't fall into the trap that happiness can be bought.

The materialistic way of life creates stress and that can lead to all manner of health issues. Heart disease, stroke, mental health problems, depression, cancer and more have all been found to be either caused by or exasperated by stress. The principle of less is more is really profound if it can reduce these problems.

Have you ever tried to simplify your life? Did you succeed? Are you planning to do so in the future?

Please leave a comment in the box below and let me know your experience and thoughts about ‘less is more’.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Technology - Simplicity is The Key

I quite like technology although I have long grown out of being a gadget man. However, what I do use I like to be functional, and simple to use. There are so many inventions that end up complicating our lives rather than helping us. It can often take longer to use new technology than a tried and trusted method from the past.

Here are my favourite technology items:


Computers: Mac and Google Chromebook they are easy to use and the software tends to be trouble free. Both are far better than Microsoft Windows for my use.

Tablet & Mobile Phone: Apple or Android. I do like my old Apple iPhone 5 which I purchased second hand and sold my Android. Android is good but I because I own an iMac and IPad I just prefer the convenience of sticking to one system. Mobile phones, of course, are now very useful for managing so many aspects of daily life but there is a need to be able to disconnect. My top tip is to turn off notifications for things that you can check at your convenience such as email, Facebook and other social media that can so easily control our lives.

Software: It has to be a mixture of Google Drive and the programs that come with a Mac, such as for spreadsheets Numbers. Google Drive's tools are similarly easy to use compared to Windows Excel etc.

Evernote is one of my favourite tools. It does so much and works across all platforms with apps for phones and tablets. I write my blog posts firstly on a note in Evernote, I keep important information, store receipts and statements, create to-do lists, set reminders, store web pages for research and much more! Try it out for yourself by clicking here.

Email: Gmail is my preferred email system and you can use it to host non-Google addresses. It beats Outlook Mail by a country mile.

Calendar: Google - it works without complication.

Music: Vinyl Record Deck, CD Player with associated amplifier and speakers. I love playing vinyl records but do appreciate the practicality of storing CD's and playing them in the car. I prefer a physical product to cloud-based or electronic downloads.

Electric Rice Cooker - ditched! Easier and takes less space to use a pan and a good technique.

Electric Food Processor - apart from the odd time to blend a few ingredients I wouldn't know what to do with the other functions! A knife seems to do pretty well instead of using it.

Electric Carving Knife - I don't have a joint of meat to cut but my Moulinex carving knife which is now almost 40 years old works superbly making carving a joint so easy!

Pen/Pencil & Paper: whilst there is a value to some electronic notes for safe storage, quite often a notebook and pen works best.

For me, even the most complicated technology should be designed to be easily used by the consumer and not require hours of training to learn how to use it. Many companies such as Google and Apple seem to have this philosophy and I applaud them for it.

Of course, there is far more to technology that just a few things that I have mentioned. Washing machines, vacuum cleaners, cookers and fridges are all a product of technology and as long as they are easy to use will make it onto my list.
It would be good to hear your thoughts and I would like you to leave a comment in the box below.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

What is Success?

Thousands of books have been written on how to be successful. It seems too, that everywhere you look online there are people who claim that they can teach you how to be successful. Beware though of many of these so-called success leaders. They make their money from people who pay for their online coaching or decidedly dubious programs. One thing all of these people seem to have in common is their definition of success.

Define Success


The sales pages and glossy brochures these people use give a clue. The very expensive car parked in front of the large house or the luxury yacht with them drinking champagne and the kind of watch on their wrist shows that for them success is about money and possessions
.
The truth though, is that people with money and possessions can lead very unhappy lives, as these things are no guarantee of happiness. How can we measure success? Is it all about money and possessions?

Surely success is how we are as people, the number of real friends we have and not Facebook followers. It's about the closeness of our family, the love of our partners and children. Does not the joy and satisfaction we have in our work bring a feeling of success even on relatively modest pay?

We live in a world where many have realised that after having lots of possessions and money they are better off having less and living a simpler lifestyle. The striving after the financial success that many crave creates stress and few people get to the point of owning the Ferrari or superyacht. When they do get there they are often left disappointed.


How do you feel about success?


How do you feel about success? How do you define it? Please leave a comment in the box below.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Why Do I Have to Pay for My Care?

Here in the UK as well as many other western lands, there is an ageing population. The United Kingdom prides itself on its free healthcare system, The National Health Service (NHS). When this system was founded in 1948 medicine was less sophisticated and people generally did not live as long.

With better healthcare and increased living standards, the demographics of the population has changed resulting in a larger percentage of older citizens. Many of these older ones require some assistance, either at home or within a care home.

NHS and the Taxpayer


Due to the National Health Service providing a free service it is often expected that this should be extended to any type of healthcare provider such as care homes and care at home (domiciliary care). The fact is the cost of care is very expensive to the British taxpayer and to offset this the UK Government has to find ways to reduce the cost.

The Government sets the rules for those who have to pay for their care and those that don't. Much of the burden for the cost of care actually falls on local governments under their social services departments. The NHS picks up the cost when people need care at certain higher levels of medical need and either make a contribution or pay in full.

Care Financial Threshold


People that don't qualify for free care and have enough money to pay for their own care will be expected to do so. If you have savings above £23,250 (2018/19) you will have to pay for your care until your funds drop to this level. For amounts between £14,250 and £23,250, you will have to make a contribution (£1 for every £250 per week) until your funds fall below £14,250. If you own a property the value will also be taken into account if you go into a care home, unless the home is occupied by a spouse or dependent child.

Many people do object to paying on the basis that they have worked hard and saved all their lives and begrudge that people who don't have assets can get free care. Whilst this is true, those with money to pay for their own care may well be able to choose a better care home or the amount and type of care they receive. It will depend on how much over the threshold they have if having assets makes such a difference.
For advice on care in the UK please visit Age UK 
The reality, of course, is that care is very expensive and for the majority of people they will never be able to save sufficient funds to pay for long-term care should they require it and the only way to raise large amounts of money might be through the sale of their home. The amount of money being spent on care is set to rise and the government are continually reviewing how to make it fair and affordable for the UK population.

If you or a loved one need care, make sure that you seek advice to see what you are entitled to in free care and allowances towards the cost if you have to pay. The Age UK website is always a good place to start along with your local council, health authority and Citizens Advice Bureau.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Caveat Emptor - Buyer Beware

Latin: Caveat Emptor - Let the buyer beware

For many centuries buyers in Britain had to think carefully about the principle of 'caveat emptor' - let the buyer beware. The onus to buy goods fit for their purpose rested with the buyer and not the seller.

Thankfully, modern consumer law now offers buyers much greater protection from unscrupulous sellers. The principle of caveat emptor could be described as obsolete when it comes to everyday shopping.

However, there are areas, particularly when buying property (the largest value purchase you are likely to make) or second-hand goods from a private seller when you need to be aware that as the buyer you need to take responsibility for checking that the property or goods are right for you.

When  buying a home you should employ a surveyor and possibly other experts to check the property is in good condition and a lawyer to check all the legalities of buying it, such as any attached covenants, leases, rights of way and so forth that could make the property worth much less than you are paying for it, or worse still, an absolute pain to own and sell on in the future. Indeed, here in the UK you have more consumer rights as a buyer when buying a chocolate bar than when purchasing a property!

Therefore, if you are buying a home, please don't try to save money by cutting out any checks that could ultimately save you a lot of grief and a huge amount of cash. Caveat Emptor applies! Be aware, be very aware.

Monday, 3 December 2018

How to Remember Things

I have always claimed to have a fairly good memory and when it comes to things like conversations that I have had, places I have visited and stories that interest me this is true. There are times though that I have to memorize things in which I am not naturally interested and that can be much more difficult.

I also find that when there are many tasks that need doing it is easy to overlook one or two and then remember too late in the day that they have been missed. What about those times when I open a drawer and wonder why? Do you ever do that? Many people tell me that they often go to do a task and can’t remember what it was.

In order to make sure that I remember things better I have been looking at some suggestions online, some of which I already do. So following my research here are some ways that will show you how to remember things.

When it comes to learning new things, writing down key notes about the main points is useful. I have always found it helpful when learning many new things to use a mind map. The use of colours too can be helpful and to have a colour code, perhaps to place things in a group or order of importance will be advantageous too. The important thing with this method is that it must suit you and the way that you remember things and not one that is designed for someone else. It’s also suggested that we use pictures because these are easier to remember than words.

Those that enter memory competitions have a system that every object they memorise is attached to another object that they already have listed in their mind. One trick that I was taught is that if you want to remember objects is to imagine them in your own home. The trick is then mentally to visualize your home and ‘look’ at the objects you placed mentally in your home setting. It’s a good party trick but not necessarily practical for remembering facts.


Break down into memorable sections


To remember numbers particularly long ones, break the number down into sections. For example, 265,456 is much easier to remember as 265 - 456 or 26-54-56. Look at combinations that will make more sense and easier to learn for any numbers. It’s also good when memorising any names or numbers to say them out loud. When I am introduced to people for the first time I often forget their name but when I apply the ‘say their name 3 times’ rule it does work. What is this rule? It is that when introduced to someone it is best to immediately use their name and try and do so 3 times very quickly in the opening conversation.

To remember tasks that need to be done it really is best to get in the habit of writing them down. This not only makes sure that you don’t forget but gives you the opportunity to clearly plan your day. The more that you do this, in fact, the better your memory is likely to become but don’t skip the process of writing down once you feel that you can remember all the tasks for the day. A to-do list is one of the best things that I got out of a day spent on a time management course many years ago. Perhaps I will write more about time management on another occasion.

If you are reading and the publication you are reading belongs to you then using a highlighter or pencil to underline key points will help you to remember. It’s also good to stop and think about what you have read and look at it from different angles. The more you analyse what you read the more likely you are to remember it. Modern tablet computers usually have a highlighter feature built in. I usually find it more difficult to take in information from a standard vertical computer screen, perhaps that is why tablets are more popular to read from. For important information that I need to learn, I will print the document. This allows me to highlight, underline and make marginal notes. If you have the opportunity talk to others about what you are trying to remember as this can reinforce your learning and impress it more on the memory.

It’s vital to note that it is very difficult to learn new things when we are tired and so getting enough rest is important if we are going to remember things. Our brain, after all, is similar to other muscles and parts of our body that require time to recuperate. For many of us that are not in manual jobs that would make us physically tired, we can often push the boundaries too far and not get enough sleep.


Use it or lose it


One thing that I have noticed is the more we try to remember the easier it becomes. Someone once described the brain as a muscle and that if you don’t use it it will not be as effective. Modern technology can make us lazy and things like phone numbers are now stored in a phone’s memory and therefore it takes away a need to memorise. This applies in many other ways and kids are heard to say “why I should I learn this when I can simply look it up on the Internet?” Of course, the Internet is very helpful but if we don’t use our minds we lose more than just memory, we lose the ability to reason and think things through for ourselves. Perhaps that is what some elements of society would like to happen.

How to Develop a Brilliant Memory Week by Week: 50 Proven Ways to Enhance Your Memory Skills

There is much more I could write about how to remember things and maybe I will another day but in the meantime don’t forget what I have just written!

Sunday, 2 December 2018

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease was first identified as a separate condition in 1975 in Old Lyme, Connecticut. It can be quite a debilitating condition and something that we all should be aware of. It is the most common disease spread by ticks in the northern hemisphere with an estimated infection rate of 300,000 people in the United States each year and 65,000 people in Europe.

The singer, Shania Twain has been infected with this which resulted in her absence from the music scene for quite some time. The ex-England rugby captain Matt Dawson has had to have multiple heart operations following the contraction of Lyme Disease after being bitten by a tick in a London park.

What is Lyme disease?


Lyme disease is an infection by a bacteria of the Borrelia type. As mentioned, it is spread by ticks which have become infected with the bacteria by feeding on the blood of small mammals. Because the ticks like to feed off deer it was thought that the infection came from them, however, this is not the case. Ticks can be found in parks, gardens, heathland and woodland with the highest concentration of tick population where there are deer and hence, why it was once felt that deer were the source of the bacteria.

Not all ticks carry the bacteria and a tick will have to be attached to you for 36 to 48 hours for the infection to take place. This means that you should check yourself and your children for these tiny creatures and remove them correctly (see below).

What are the symptoms?


If you are bitten by a tick and are infected with Lyme disease you might develop a red circular rash around the bite up to 30 days after being bitten. Not everyone will develop a rash and usually, 25 per cent or more won't.

Some people also have flu-like symptoms in the early stages, such as:
a high temperature, or feeling hot and shivery
headaches
muscle and joint pain
tiredness and loss of energy
Some people who are not treated for Lyme Disease can develop many months or years later swelling and joint pain and problems with nerves and heart. Others can develop long-term issues resulting in a condition such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome

Lyme Disease - Early Treatment


If you have any of these symptoms and know that you have been bitten by a tick seek medical assistance immediately and tell your doctor about the bite. If you have not noticed being bitten, and many people don't, tell your doctor if you have been out in the countryside, woods, parks and so forth where you could have come into contact with ticks. A doctor will prescribe antibiotics for a 2 to 3 weeks course which you should fully complete, even if you start to feel better.

Avoiding Tick Bites


If you're out walking in the woods or countryside avoid brushing against vegetation as much as you can. It's best to stay on clearly defined paths away from long vegetation. Wear light coloured clothes to make it easier to spot ticks on them and brush off immediately. Wear trousers to keep your legs covered and the old trick of walkers having trousers tucked into boots or socks greatly decreases the chance of ticks working their way onto your skin. Of course, as mentioned earlier check yourself thoroughly after a walk. Ticks are most active from spring to autumn and this is the most likely time to be bitten and become infected. Use the insect repellent DEET to give the best protection to keep ticks off you.

How to remove a tick


If you find a tick attached to your skin, you can either use a tick removal tool or a pair of fine tweezers. Grab the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull slowly and gently upwards to avoid leaving any of the tick's mouth parts in your skin. You can apply antiseptic to the area or wash with soap and water. Keep an eye on the area and if there is a rash or you become unwell seek medical advice and tell your doctor about the bite. Do remember though that the chance of that tick being infected with Lyme Disease is low and also if it was not attached to you for very long even lower, so don't become too worried and live in fear of a reaction.

Enjoy the countryside


Lyme disease is obviously something to be avoided and in many areas popular with walkers you might see warnings that there are ticks. By following the advice and taking appropriate preventative measures you can greatly reduce the risk of infection. If you are bitten and become infected then early treatment is essential so don't put off seeking advice. You might have to press your doctor to consider Lyme Disease. Some doctors in the past have not been aware of the disease as it does not always show up in early blood tests and can appear to be any one of a number of less serious conditions.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Avoid Scam Phone Calls

There is a huge industry that is scamming people all over the world out of their hard-earned money. One of the methods is cold calling people on the telephone to obtain money or information that can lead to money being taken later. Many of the calls originate from India and Pakistan but are not limited to these countries.

Here are a few examples of what are currently popular scams in the UK.


The Microsoft Scam Phone Call


This has been an extremely popular scam and I used to get regular calls to my phone, even daily. The caller would tell me that they were from Microsoft and that my computer has informed them that it has a problem. Now that is very strange as my computer is an Apple Mac! However, it did not stop their patter when I told them that my computer was a Mac as the callers invariably did not seem to know what a Mac is.

The intention of the caller is to gain access to your PC and charge you a considerable amount of money to remove a virus. Those that have fallen for this scam have 2 issues. Firstly the scammer can install malware that gives them access to the PC and details stored on it and secondly they come back for another round of payments later when you need to upgrade their original work. The amounts they charge are enormous and in many cases, they are so greedy they exceed the cost of a new computer.


The BT Router / IP address Scam Phone Call


It would seem that the Microsoft call is being adapted to the callers saying they are from BT (British Telecom - the main UK provider of phone lines) and that your router has an issue or your IP address is going to be blocked. The whole point of this is once again to gain access to your computer and obtain payments.

Bank Scam


The caller is claiming to be from your bank or credit card company and is trying to get your pin number. Your card details are most likely already with the scammer. They will ask you for a couple of the digits as a so-called security test then put you through to another department who will randomly request the remaining digits. Genuine banks never ask for any part of your pin number. If you get such a call put the phone down and call the fraud line of your bank or credit company immediately. It might be time to change the card number if it's being targeted.

Some of these callers will ask you to call your bank directly but will keep the line open and then pretend you have just dialled in. Remember if they ask you to do this put the phone down and either, use a completely separate line or wait a while for the line to clear. Only dial a number that you can see displayed by your own bank on the card or their official website or paper statements.

Investment Scam Phone Calls


Here is the UK many older people are targeted who might have pension funds stored away and the caller will sell them worthless shares or simply get the person to transfer money to the scammer. These scammers will often come back for a second attempt pretending to be a company that can get your money back for a fee.

You Have Won a Competition


Great news! You have won a super prize but to get it paid or delivered to you an administration fee or taxes have to be paid. There is, of course, no prize. As in the scam above, quite often the scammer will come back promising to get your lost money back or there is a little more still to pay to get your winnings.


The object of all these calls is to scam you out of your money. So the question is, 'How can you protect yourself or your loved ones from the scammers?'

Rule 1

Is to listen carefully to the caller. A genuine computer company will never call you to inform you have a problem out of the blue. Your broadband provider will not do so either and ask for payments.
Have you ever won a competition that you have not entered? No, of course not, so any call like this is going to be a scam. In the scam, it is nearly always going to be winnings that are in another country and hence justify the fees the scammer is asking for. A similar email and postal scam have been running for years. Therefore hang up immediately with the word - scammer.

Rule 2

Do not give any personal details even if you feel like winding up the caller. It is best to tell them you don't believe them and don't call again. Some recommend avoiding saying 'yes' to questions in case they are going to patch in your words to something they can use later on. I am not sure if this is being done but prevention is better than cure.

Rule 3

Use a call blocker on the line so that callers leave a message such as their name and company before you answer. Many scammers are put off by this but it is not 100% guaranteed to do so. If you don't recognise the company or caller be very aware. Such things as we have here the UK as The Telephone Preference Service can cut out genuine sales calls but will not stop the scammers. These scammers will also often use what appear to be local phone numbers on your phone display so banning international calls is also no way to prevent them from calling.

Some scammers like voicemail and it has been used widely in the scam plaguing the USA where scammers are pretending to collect IRS payments with threats of arrest to get the money. They are happy to leave voicemails and get people to call them back. Most of the scammers will have Asian accents but use an English name, a warning in itself.

Rule 4

Elderly people who can be more easily confused and often trusting are a target. The scammers love these as getting them to hand over money and banking details is much more successful. Talk to your family and warn them. Protect them by installing call blockers on the phone and maybe having funds in accounts that can't be accessed immediately. If an elderly relative is struggling with dementia or confusion, see if you can take responsibility for their money using appropriate legal ways to do so. Above all speak regularly to them and see if they have been getting any calls such as those mentioned here and encourage them to always call you or another responsible family member if they do.

Rule 5

If a call does not fall into one of the above scenarios and you are not sure, then err on the safe side and treat it as a scam call. If people want to access your computer, personal details, saying they are your bank and wanting security information and are asking for money over the phone it will be a scam.

Sadly there are lots of scammers who are operating around the world and the telephone has become a tool that they have been very adept at using. Be careful and avoid being scammed.

I hope that you have found this post helpful and please do leave a comment and tell us about any phone scams that you have come across.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

How to Choose an Estate Agent

For most people moving home can be quite a stressful event. When you already own your own home you will invariably need to sell it in order to be able to purchase another one. Most of us will decide to use an estate agent, although there is no obligation to do so, generally, it makes finding a buyer more convenient. The estate agent should also be trying to obtain the best price for you as well as making sure that the buyer will proceed to completion.

Every town in Britain seems to have a large number of estate agents, so this raises the question; How to Choose an Estate Agent?"

Firstly, you need to think about the type of property you own. If it is a little outside the normal such as a country mansion, chocolate box cottage in a rural retreat or a small holding you would be better with an agent that specialises in such properties. For properties that are in neglect and require lots of renovation, an estate agent that has a regular auction could well achieve better results for you.

In the main, most of us will have a property type and situated in a location that 99% of estate agents will market and will, therefore, have a larger number of estate agents to choose from. Here are some things to consider and how to test the estate agent for yourself to see if they are the right one for you to market your home.

Reputation and Recommendation


As with many businesses, their reputation is key. Talk to people you know and ask them about their knowledge of the estate agents in your area and if they or their friends have used them. Find out what they were like to both sell with and to buy from. Did they try to get people to pay more or were they quick to get the price reduced? Did they accompany viewings, feedback on viewings and keep vendors clearly informed? It's good to speak to as many people as possible as well as check online for any reviews.

How Do They Market Properties?


Check out the estate agents website. Is it up to date with an easy way to search for properties being sold? Do they also advertise on the major portals such as Rightmove and Primelocation? Is there office in a good position with up to date window displays that are actually trying to sell homes rather than plastered with 'sold' ones to try and get more vendors to sell with them? If they are more interested in taking on property rather than selling then beware. It could be that they are really good at selling and need more homes but it may also be the other way around that they can't attract vendors or properties are taken off them and given to someone else to sell.

Visit the Estate Agents


When you visit the estate agents office check out how you are greeted. Are they welcoming and attentive? Initially, go to buy and not to ask them to sell your home. They will soon ask you if you have a property to sell and will pitch their service to you. If they concentrate on selling you their service rather than a property, beware. Also be careful if they are not interested in letting you have property details or view if you're property is not on the market. Many buyers today will go out and view homes before committing to sell. If an agent is not interested in that segment of the market it is hugely detrimental to their vendors.

If you are buying in the same area go and view a few properties that you would be interested in and see how the estate agent handles that. Did they go with you to the viewing? Did they follow up and ask if you would like to make an offer? Offers can be made even if you have not sold your property.

To test the agent out and not waste any vendors time on 'test offers' simply say to the agent that you are thinking of making an offer and see how they react. If an estate agent says that they don't put offers forward as you haven't sold there might see an issue. It could be that a vendor has instructed them not to put such offers forward, but that is very rare.

Personally, I would not offer until I had sold otherwise someone else can come along and top your offer and create a bidding war. However, the test here is not for that reason as a bidding war would be good for the vendor and the agent! It's to test the agent on their willingness to get offers and more money. They might just be too lazy to want to do more than the minimum and offers that can't immediately proceed might not be to their liking.


The Contract


When you decide to sell your property the fee, of course, is an important consideration along with the length of the agreement you sign. Estate agents prefer to be the only one trying to sell your property and this is a sole agency contract. If you were to sell the property yourself, for example to a friend, you will still be liable for the fee even if the estate agent has nothing to do with the sale. If you believe there is someone you know that is likely to buy your home but has not yet been able to make an offer, make sure that you have a contract that allows you to sell to that person without paying the agent unless you are prepared to pay them for nothing.

Check carefully how much the agent is charging and if there will be any additional fees, for example, newspaper advertising. A sole agency fee should be lower than multiple agencies. Of course, as with everything in life, if you pay less you might not be getting a better deal.

Check carefully how long you will be committed to the agent because if you switch agents during this period you could be liable to 2 fees when the property sells. You will really need to read the small print carefully before you sign. This can take quite a while, therefore, if an estate agent is trying to get you to sign in a hurry be prepared to walk away.

When the time comes for you to find an estate agent to sell your home I wish you well and hope that you have found this blog post helpful. Your comments are always appreciated, so do feel free to leave one in the box below.

Twitter: Why Do I Unfollow People?


As time goes by our interests may change. I know that over the past few years mine have, especially those relating to the type of work that I do each day. This has resulted in me looking carefully at the people who I follow on Twitter. There are hundreds who are connected to the financial services and other businesses that I no longer have dealings with. Therefore I spent a little time and unfollowed those that I no longer need a connection to.

Twitter: Who should you follow?


Far too many Twitter users follow people simply in the hope of being followed back or they feel that it is only polite to do so. Many people each month follow me and I always check who they are by reading their bio and also how many they follow. If they follow tens of thousands it becomes obvious that they are following, possibly using software, just to increase the number of followers they have. Very rarely am I likely to follow such accounts for that very reason.

My advice is to follow people that you are interested in what they have to say and whom you are likely to communicate with. For those who in whom you have some interest but not necessarily on a daily basis, the best option is to create a Twitter list for each interest that you have. For example, you might have a Twitter list connected to sports, business, health matters, news, restaurants, finance, hobbies and so forth which you can then view at a time to suit you.

You can within Tweetdeck or Hootsuite set up a search stream for the lists that you wish to monitor regularly. Setting up lists will prevent clogging up your Twitter feed with lots of messages that you might not be too concerned about on a daily basis. This will leave you free to concentrate on the most important tweets but allow easy access to those on the list, as and when you wish to view them. You can add anyone to a list, unless they have protected tweets, without following them.

I will always follow people in whom I have an interest in the subjects they talk about or those who engage regularly with me. Others will be added to a Twitter list. You can create as many lists as you wish and either make the list public so that others can follow it or set it as private to so that only you can see who is on the list and follow it.

I would like to thank everyone for following me on Twitter and hope that you understand that if I am not following back does not automatically mean that I am not interested in you or what you have to say.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Let's Kick Off

Kicking Off on Blogger


Hello and welcome to my blog.

I have been blogging for many years and have written blog posts for company websites as well as my own.

In recent times I have been concentrating my time on my passion which is football. To this end I have been working on a blog, podcast and YouTube live broadcast for Warminster Town Football Club, a non-league club in the Wiltshire market town of Warminster.

My aim is to share my ramblings about other matters here in this blog and I hope that you will follow and comment. Thank you in anticipation!