Tuesday, 20 August 2019

How To Be More Attentive When Driving

Driving can be stressful, whether you’re driving to somewhere completely new to you or a long-distance trip down the motorway, different types of stress may zap your concentration which can end up leading to a speeding fine, or potentially worse.  Add the complication of noisy children in the back of the car, the bad behaviour of some other drivers and well, it can be challenging  to say the least.

Here are some handy tips you can put into practice when you’re starting to feel your focus and patience wane:

Turn The Air-con On To A Low Temperature

This tip works just as well for when you’re feeling tired – by keeping the temperature cool your body feels more awake and alert. In fact, plenty of brand new cars include this as a safety feature – if you have one of Mercedes’ new models, you can use the voice command to say things like “Hey Mercedes, I’m tired” and it’ll change the ambient lighting, turn the air con on cold and the fan speed up. Alternatively, if you don’t have the luxury of air-con, you could always wind your windows down instead, providing it’s not raining of course! In our house I know that Daddy will do all of these things so even on the hottest day I bring cardigans and/or hoodies for us all as once the car is speeding along with all the windows open we soon need them and recently did on a car journey.  Once covered up (the kids even ask for a blanket) they soon fall asleep and then the journey is even easier especially after full tummies from a stop at services.  Yes, loo breaks are an essential of a pleasant car journey too!

Turn Your Music Down

Plenty of studies show that music has a direct influence on your reaction times, but those studies usually look within the lens of travelling at speeds of 30+ mph. For the times when you’re looking for a particular house number, street name or plan on doing a manoeuvre such as parallel parking or a turn in the road, turning your music down will increase your concentration immediately. This concept is backed up by a recent survey conducted by UK car leasing firm All Car Leasing, which found that nearly three quarters (72%) of the overall survey participants opt to turn their music down when they’re making a manoeuvre – so you’re not crazy if you do this habit already! If you want to read the full survey and supporting infographic, click here.

Keep hydrated

Dehydration in general will make you start to feel drowsy, so when you’re driving this becomes a much more serious issue. Plan ahead by having a glass of water or a cup of tea, you could even go a step further and bring a travel mug with you if you’re going to be stuck in stop/start traffic or on a long motorway trip.

Don’t Get Caught Off-Guard

Things like roadworks or harsh weather conditions usually present hazards on your journey such as road closures, light flooding or large branches that have blown off nearby trees. The last thing you need is to encounter these things when you’re unaware of them potentially happening. This can be avoided by checking the weather forecast the night before if you’re going to be commuting the next morning or even joining a local residents' page for your town, people are usually quite quick to let others know things happening in the local vicinity (though usually they’re mainly moaning about other people’s parking!).

Don’t Look At Your Phone

It’s 2019 so this should be obvious already at this point – looking at your mobile phone while driving is one of the largest contributing factors to road traffic accidents behind the likes of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It can be easy to get distracted if you’re feeling bored, but this is something you should absolutely avoid, if not out of fear of actually having an accident but also getting caught by the police.  The penalty for doing so is now increased. 

You can get 6 penalty points and a £200 fine if you use a hand-held phone when driving. You’ll also lose your licence if you passed your driving test in the last 2 years.
You can get 3 penalty points if you don’t have a full view of the road and traffic ahead or proper control of the vehicle.
You can also be taken to court where you can:

Monday, 5 August 2019

Road Trips are Easier with Land Rover

Feels like the Land Rover has always been part of my life. My dad spent decades wanting one and then the very second he got made redundant that's what he couldn't wait to spend his money on - a Land Rover Discovery.  So excited was he, he even had a personalised number plate.  So whenever my Dad was near I knew it wasn't just any Land Rover it was my Dad.

The most hours we've ever spent in a car were when Aaron and I - pre Lottie - went on a road trip to Ireland with my Dad and his wife. We literally had to leave London, thankfully in the Land Rover Discovery at about 05:30 a.m. embarking on a long drive to Holyhead, Wales, broken up by a stop at services for lunch.  It was great that we stayed one night in a Bed and Breakfast in Wales, as we got to eat by the sea and go to the park. We then, with the Land Rover, boarded the boat over to Dun Laoghaire.  Saves you hiring a car when you  get there and means you can bring way more luggage than if flying.  Also better than flying as you get to walk around, have a meal and there are some shops where I fondly remembering buying Aaron a fire engine and all these years later Lottie does still play with it.  

You can also go up on deck which was really exciting for Aaron. He loved that there was a cinema and soft play area on board.  My Dad doesn't like the fast boat so we got the Stena Line with a sailing time of 3hr 15m and thankfully it was a smooth sailing as Dad also suffers from sea sickness.  After a pleasant ride across the Irish Sea we had a really long drive from Dublin to County Mayo where all of my family on both sides reside.  Being in the Land Rover made the journey comfortable, especially important given Aaron's age at the time.  We were so worried about how well he'd travel we invested in a portable DVD player especially for the journey.  We still have it and I still remember the movies he watched, on repeat: Curious George (yep and the play area on the boat was Curious George themed), Kungfu Panda and Ice Age

Aaron was easily pleased and a great little traveller to be fair. He was great company, funny and doesn't at all suffer from travel sickness.  I'm glad we didn't let the length of the journey put us off.  As long as he had his movies on, a couple of stickers books (Thomas and Friends and Spiderman) and was regularly fed snacks and watered he was an incredibly easy passenger.  Every now and again, which wasn't often he'd get a little restless and my Dad's wife played a game with him where they'd pick a colour car and spot them to count them.  

He did love the comfort of the Land Rover and the height you sit at and the view this benefited him.  I'd never until this point spent a great deal of time in one and was very impressed too.  Such a novelty was the interior space of the Land Rover and the fact that it was the same height as Aaron himself, every time Granddad stopped somewhere he'd take the chance to poke his head up through the sun roof as an excuse to get fresh air and stretch his legs.  In fact that was SUCH a nice way of getting to Ireland, that I think Lottie would enjoy, I think we should do it again! I'll  have to start working on Daddy.  We have a 4 wheel drive car which is similar to a Land Rover lol.  We can make do.

The Michalaks - pictured below - are my favourite You Tubers and they've worked with Land Rover several times so I feel like I always get updates on what the latest models are and my favourite video of theirs showcasing the Land Rover was their road trip around Scotland. They did the North Coast 500 road trip and the landscape is breath taking. Stef's cinematography  and editing helps of course.

My Dad had his Land Rover for many many years they really do stand the test of time. Quality spare parts for your Land Rover here bestPARTSTORE.co.uk

While researching this blog post I discovered that Stena Line no longer sail from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire and decided to focus on expanding their business with the Dublin Port so that's the end of an era. Times change I guess.

Anyway, Lottie has never been to Ireland so this is something we'll have to rectify in the near future.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

New Luxury Bathroom Use Only Professionals

Pull up a chair I want to discuss bathrooms with you.  Specifically refurbishing a bathroom.  I really feel this should only be done by professionals and I feel more than qualified through experience to say so.  

I think a bathroom should be an oasis of calm.  After all I like 90 minute baths and would like that to be in a tranquil and peaceful space.  Orderly, clean, exquisite and functional.

And I want you to learn from MY mistakes.  DIY means Do It Yourself, but with plumbing and electrics I think it should be DIYIQ (I made it up just now but it means Do It Yourself If Qualified)... actually it ends in IQ so could mean Do it Yourself - if you have the - IQ lol!

... yes you can hang wall paper, yes you can paint, but the perils of doing plumbing and electrical work incorrectly ...... well the dangers are beyond measure.  So my story is below.  I've been stung by shoddy workmanship twice now.  Both times by people who didn't know what they were doing.

Don't do what I did revamp your bathroom design to a classic or stylish look with Harrogate Bathrooms.

Let me take you back to a time when I had a work bonus. It was pre-children and I didn't have anything to spend it on and our bathroom that needed an overhaul was literally speaking to me.  It was saying imagine how lovely your 90 minute baths would be if you enjoyed them with candle light and a glass of bubbly in a swish newly decorated luxury environment.  Well budget wasn't an issue.  I was armed with my large work bonus and picked the best of everything. A GORGEOUS roll top bath.  The best tiles.  An exquisite wash hand basin.  A beautiful ladder chrome radiator I'd dreamed of for years.  An expensive glass door to replace the plastic shower curtain for the bath above the shower.  Unfortunately at a similar time to me having this dream, my best friend's husband decided to give up I.T. and become a  handy man.  Instead of spending money on qualifications and experience, he spent it on a branded van, branded fridge magnets, a branded hoodie and business cards.  I kid you not.

Not knowing about the quality of his plumbing work I booked him. And worse still I paid for ALL of the items to be delivered in time for said booking.  I even shopped WITH my best mate and she helped and advised on every item I chose, so it felt like a real joint endeavour.  I felt invested so did she.  In the interim I went round to theirs and saw some questionable plumbing behind their toilet which linked to a bidet.  My heart sunk as I knew his workmanship was not for me - I'd recently been to Germany and coveted a friend's bathroom, I used to be a DIY Manager in Sainsburys' Homebase.  I knew what I was looking for and the standard I expected.  I'm quite psychic and my spidey senses were ringing alarm bells.  The ONLY reason I didn't cancel his coming to do the work was because my best friend, his wife, was due to have a baby in a fortnight.  Your best friend having her 1st child when you yourself don't have one yet is quite a big deal.  I'd agreed to give him £2k for the work (I know I know I know - it was NUTS considering what happened next).  He had the cheek to say that was mate's rates when it was FAR from it, especially considering he wanted cash in hand.  It breaks my heart to type this as she was my best friend since Uni AND my chief bridesmaid.

Anyway clearly the story does not end there.

The booking went ahead. Day 1 went really well.  He gutted the bathroom taking all of the existing tiles off the wall.  They were only waist high with a dado rail ending where the painted wall began.  I spent £800 on tiles alone so that with the new bathroom I could have floor to ceiling.  Before he left he hoovered and then asked for a dustpan and brush. Whilst using it and leaving the place SPOTLESS he cracked the dustpan and brush and asked if he could replace it to which I replied "no it was only a £1".... little did I realise what was to happen next.

Fast forward a day, and he tried to insert the beautiful roll top bath his wife and I had chosen together. It's designed to go up against a wall, in a corner no less, perfect for having the shower above, so is only roll top on one side. Perfect.

Except when he tried to put my beautiful expensive roll top bath into the bathroom, moving it from the sitting room, its home since delivery, he realised he was literally a few millimetres short, so we agreed that he would chisel into the wall so that the roll top of the bath could sit into a groove except what he didn't tell me was that he'd been a bit too chisel happy and then made a hole through into my kitchen wall (which he covered up so I only discovered it weeks later - I'll come back to that). But how could someone who's offering to replace a dustpan and brush be the same person who makes a hole in your wall and doesn't tell you.

He spent a week in my house, the daily rate of which had we done the payment that way, would not have been remotely close to what I paid him, especially as the fee did not include materials. I supplied the grout, the tile adhesive, the everything.  He said he would plaster the ceiling - he didn't.

His work came to a premature close as my best friend went into labour -  I know it's like the stuff of movies I tell ya. I even paid him before he left as I had this aching feeling they'd need the money for the baby. They're both so ridiculously tight, this probably is laughable.  And the only person who got shot in the foot throughout this sorry episode is me.  I'll give you an example of my "friend's" tightness later.  It's actually quite cathartic writing all of this and that's once what blogging was all about hey, before it became commercial and sponsored.

Oh if you want another installment as to things he did wrong.  He tiled AROUND my power shower.  He chiselled my expensive wall tiles in a very ugly non fitting way so that they surrounded the shower, doing it SO inaccurately that you could see huge patches of grout around said shower.  In the years we remained in that flat I had various plumbers in (professionals I might add) who all said that what you do is you TAKE THE ELECTRICAL SHOWER UNIT OFF THE WALL and then you tile the whole wall, only making neat circular holes (with the correct size circular drill bit of course - I'm saying this for a reason - more on that later) for the cold and hot water pipes. So it's like a wall of tiles with 2 circular holes in, with 2 pipes protruding.  The back of the shower unit then sits on top and the front of the shower unit simply clips onto the front of that.  There is NO REASON for the tiling to SURROUND the shower, it should be UNDER it.  Oh... my ... days... how am I not grey?!?!?!?!

Worse still he started at the left hand wall by the door and then similarly started at the right hand wall by the door and then tiled clockwise and anti clockwise till he got to the centre which is basically the corner that catches your eye in the distance when you stand at the door and look into the room. EVERY plumber who's visited, says that what you do is you tile outwards FROM that point of focus. Because in tiling into it, he then had to halve tiles, in fact sometimes they were slivers.  In order to make the tiles meet the corner, and that is not a good look when you look into the room and that's your eyes' focal point.  So the 1st thing that catches your eye are slivers of tiles that have been cut by hand.  Hardly a clean and professional geometric look and doesn't showcase the tiles to be the quality that they are.  But left and right of where you are standing the tiles are complete but you don't exactly look right where you're standing.  You look IN TO a room.
Underneath the wash hand basin he did holes for waste water that were huge compared to  the overflow pipe that was protruding - he hadn't chosen the drill bit with the right diameter and hadn't used anything to plug the difference, so I think a year later we only discovered this when a large family of wasps started using it as an access point to our home. We literally had to close the bathroom door and listen to it humming and buzzing.  And then my hubby had to get the courage to go in there and deal with them and that he did.

I had that ladder chrome radiator of dreams I'd mentioned and when ordering it they asked is it going into the floor or wall as they give you a bit that faces the right 90 degree way so that you get the chrome look right buff up to floor or wall - you'll see what he instead did pictured below.  Utterly heartbreaking.  I'd asked him prior to his arrival and ordered what he'd suggested which you can see is the floor version when what would have been needed is wall.  Only he didn't even do the plumbing to the right point so used ugly bronze copper piping to bridge the gap from radiator to floor and as he hadn't done the cold and hot feeds in the right place he bent them to get them to fit, meaning we later had lots of problems with dripping resulting in pressure loss to our whole central heating system. We were plagued with problems resulting from his "handy work" for the remainder of our time at that flat. Also, just look at the diameter of the hole he made in my precious tiles, not even remotely close to the size of the pipe he needed it for:

NOW I will tell you the etiquette with builders and workman is that you retain a large part of the payment till they do the snagging, but as I've said earlier, on the last day when my best friend was in labour, I paid him in full as he left, but I convinced him to come round a few weeks later to mount a bathroom cabinet I'd paid £80 for in Argos. I didn't trust me and hubby to drill through tiles to wall mount it.  I stupidly thought that whilst he'd be screwing it up I could discuss all of his many mistakes with him, with a view to how we could move forward but when I answered the door he was in a helmet. He'd driven to mine by motor bike and when he finally and reluctantly took the helmet off he looked like someone who didn't want to chat.  That wouldn't put anyone else off having the necessary chat, especially given the £2k but it made me clam up.  Worse still, the bathroom cabinet was meant to be erected by hanging it on 4 screws and he only used TWO. Even worse still if that's possible (with this guy it is) one of those two screws were in grout instead of in tile so the weight caused the fixing to basically slide down the wall with the passing of time.  See the pic I am not exaggerating. He attached these 2 screws to the top, meaning that the cabinet (and the shelves and the contents) were hanging off the top frame of the cabinet. And over the years gravity did its thing and the cabinet became separate from the roof of it.  I blamed it's shoddiness on Argos till I realised that it was in fact only that top piece of wood that was hooked on the wall and the cabinet and its contents were literally just hanging from it. And obviously the join between the sides of the cabinet and its top are NOT meant to be capable of holding the weight of all of its contents.  So yes the summary is, there was NOTHING he did right.

I couldn't bring myself to have THAT conversation.  So I have never ever spoken to either of them since.

Except remember I said my friend is tight.  Well I worked for a luxury brand of footwear at the time.  Footwear worn by many a celeb at the time.  So desperate for these was my friend she emailed me asking for staff discount.  How she had the nerve I do not know.  I asked her to call me with her card details so that I could process the payment over the phone.  She EVEN wanted more than one pair.  I was civil while we did the transaction and haven't spoken to her since.  Her having the nerve to do that told me the measure of her.  And the fact she didn't question why we hadn't spoken in so long either before during or since that call, showed me that he had told her what a mess he'd made.  I doubt he told her everything he'd done / not done, maybe her guilt was just based on him admitting he made a hole in my kitchen wall.  I don't know, I'll never know.

But I thought I was done with bathroom karma and incompetent plumbers until our next experience this time in our new home.  Except this was real DIY and this time I hadn't paid for it.  The previous owner here decided to do some plumbing himself, in fact that's not the only thing he did, but let's just deal with bathrooms in this blog post.  Underneath the bath the pipe he installed and bought was not long enough and not being a professional he didn't join the 2 together how a plumber would and after a couple of years the 2 separated but it was on a night when my 2 kids had a large bath.  Once they took out the plug the water went under the bath and half of it went down through the join between the two pipes and basically flooded the downstairs toilet in the room below.  Unfortunately the point of access was the downstairs toilet light and as well all know, electricals and water don't mix, so the fuse box for the whole of downstairs basically banged but before it did, there was the beginnings of an electrical fire and the smouldering, smell and smoke of one. I've never been so frightened. 2 fire brigades came. To this day I still can't bare that smouldering smell of electricals getting hot.  So now whenever someone nearby is burning something in their back garden and the smell comes through my windows I panic until I confirm the source of the smell.

The thing is, kids have baths before bed and I was sleeping with them. By the time the water sufficiently filtered through to start the electrical fire I would have been asleep and who knows what might have happened.  But THANK GOD I was chatting to my Dad and had to say to him "I've got to go I can smell burning". By this point both kids were already asleep.  Yes I know you are going to say that when I came down I heard the large bang of the circuit shorting the fuse box, but the light fitting was still smouldering and smoking and it had wooden ceiling joints/joists right next to it, which could have set alight. Yes the fact that they were wet might have made this an impossibility but what if ones to one side were and ones to the other side weren't and what if one side caught alight and whipped up a fire throughout all of the floorboards between upstairs and down. I can't bare to think about what MAY have happened had I not been awake talking to my Dad, so as to smell the smoke and do something about it.  I might add the downstairs light was NOT ON and yet this still happened.  The firemen when they came were amazing even taking Aaron to see the inside of the truck whilst we investigated everything.  They even installed smoke alarms before they left and removed the light fitting completely from the ceiling of the downstairs toilet.  They even removed the side of the bath and the offending plumbing work on the adjoining waste pipe so that I could not only get it fixed but know exactly what I was requesting of a plumber when I'd make the booking.  Brilliant service from our local Fire Brigade I really felt in safe hands like you should do too when employing professionals to do work in your home.

So seriously promise me you will only get electrics and plumbing done by professionals.  The problems with any time of work in the home is that the problems don't always materialise immediately so it's best to work with professionals who firstly KNOW what they are doing - remember how this post started - more DIYIQ and less DIY.  At lease professionals have the right qualifications, experience and insurance.  Also their workload is only as good as their reputation so it is in their interests to do a good and professional job.