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Monthly April 2017
Missed out on a place in this weekend’s London Marathon? Book now to take part in the ‘London Marathon Walk’ instead!

The 26.2-mile London Marathon Walk, with challenge specialist Discover Adventure, is a special one-day event taking place on 23 September – and provides the perfect chance to tackle your very own marathon event.

Taking in famous landmarks and lesser-known corners of the historic capital, this entertaining walk will be Cockney-themed and there will be the chance to learn some fun rhyming slang along the way. The route includes the church of St-Mary-le-Bow, centre of London’s Cockney heritage, so pull on your ‘daisy roots’ for a fantastic ‘ball of chalk’ this September!

There will lots of fun-filled elements to provide added entertainment throughout the day, including lively music along the route and a draw with amazing prizes from Cotswold Outdoor.

The perfect opportunity to fundraise for a charity of your choice, or simply to enjoy a wonderful day in the capital city, this is an event not to be missed.

This one-day challenge, usually priced at £75 pp, has a special offer price of just £50 pp until 26 April to celebrate ‘Marathon Month’. The price includes a hot drink and breakfast bap at the start of the walk. There is also the choice of a ‘Half Marathon’ (13-mile) route.

For further information, contact Discover Adventure on 01722 718444, or visit www.discoveradventure.com

 

Why Fairy Stories Are Good For Children

We all like some things that aren’t good for us, especially when we’re children. Children love to do slightly naughty things, they love to eat all the chocolate, they love to stay up late… In fact, we all like to do things that aren’t particularly good for us when we’re adults too – we still like to do slightly naughty things, still like to eat all the chocolate, still like to stay up late (although we regret it in the morning)…

So if things we like tend to equal things that are bad for us, where do we stand with fairy stories? Children adore them; give them a prince, a princess, some talking animals, and a happily ever after and they’re over the moon. And adults have a soft spot for them; they are a reminder of our childhoods.

Which would mean that they are bad for us – that they are bad for our children.

The funny thing is… they’re not. Not in the least. In fact, that are good for children in a number of specific ways.

Imagination

There is nothing quite like the imagination of a child. Even the most imaginative of adults can’t come close to the weird and wonderful minds of prepubescent kids, and being able to make up stories and games is an essential life skill. It can go so far as to define the kind of career they have in the future. So listening to fairy stories, and going on later to read them, can play a big part in the lives of children and the adults they grow up to become.

Morals

Parents do their best. They give children a moral compass and information about right and wrong, but it is the fairy stories that cement it in the little ones’ minds. Fairy stories have a strong moral message – good versus evil, good wins out and so on – that it is easy for children to remember. That coupled with the knowledge they have already been given by mum and dad means that children are going out into the world with a good moral sense behind them.

Critical Thinking

It may sound surprising, but fairy tales can help children with their critical thinking. They can see the consequences of any actions or decisions that may be taken in these stories. They know that the choices they make can have serious implications, so it is best if they stop to think before acting (or reacting) in haste.

Emotional Health

We often hear in the news that younger and younger children are having mental health issues. We’re not saying that fairy stories can prevent this, but they can perhaps allow children to have a good idea of how to deal with internal conflict – something that can cause mental stress. Children identify with the main character in a fairy story, and those characters tend to win out in the end, even if they are going through hardship. They do it with the help of those around them, whom they have confided in. It’s a good lesson and one that children can easily apply to their own lives.

Just Because…

Children are children for such a small amount of time. They will have enough time to be sensible and grown up. They will have enough time for worries and life to take over. So when they are little, they need to have fun. It will give them a good base for the rest of their lives, and with strong foundation they are sure to grow up to be good people. So even if for no other reason than children love them and they are fun, they should be read fairy stories.

 

 

Hire a Canal Boat for Father’s Day at Drifters’ New Day Boat Centre

Ratty’ from ‘Wind in the Willows’, famously pronounced ‘there is nothing half as much worth doing as simply messing about in boats’.

Day boat hire on the canals offers the chance to treat Dads with a fun day out on the water, nourished by a pint and a pub lunch along the way – and with a new day boat centre opening (26 March 2017) at our canal boat hire base at Gayton in Northamptonshire, Drifters (www.drifters.co.uk) now offers day boat hire at 16 of its bases.

Full tuition is included so those new to canal boating can get the hang of steering, mooring up and working the locks.  Boats are equipped with cutlery, crockery and a kettle and most day boats also have a toilet, cooker and fridge.

Here’s a list of Drifters’ day boat hire centres, routes and prices for 2017:

  1. Cruise to the Canal Museum in Stoke Bruerne – from Drifters’ new canal boat hire base at Gayton on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, it takes around an hour to chug along to the pretty canalside village of Stoke Bruerne, passing through the 2,795-metre long Blisworth Tunnel along the way. Once there, moor up and take time to visit the intriguing Canal Museum, whose stories, films and collections give visitors a fascinating look at the history of Britain’s canals.  There are plenty of places to eat in Stoke Bruerne, including the Boat Inn, Navigation Inn and the Museum’s Waterside Café. ****Day boat hire aboard Gayton’s new day boat ‘Daylark’ which can carry up to 12 people, starts at £130 on a weekday, £165 on weekends and bank holidays

  1. Historic pubs in the heart of the canal network – from Drifters’ base at Braunston on the North Oxford Canal in Northamptonshire, day boat hirers can enjoy lock-free boating and a choice of historic canalside pubs. The quiet village of Hillmorton is a delightful seven-mile, three-hour cruise away, where boaters can stop for lunch at the canalside Old Royal Oak, or take a short stroll into the village to the Stag & Pheasant.  Alternatively, head south along the Oxford Canal to Napton on the Hill for lunch in the village at The Crown or King’s Head Inn, or canalside at The Folly.  Again this journey is lock free and takes around two hours. ****Weekday boat hire from Braunston on ‘Water Ouzel’, which can carry up to 12 people, is £135, £170 on weekends and bank holidays.

 

  1. Travel across ‘The Stream in the Sky’ – Drifters’ base at Trevor on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it’s a 20-minute cruise to the World Heritage status Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. At over 38 metres high and 305 metres long, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is truly one of the wonders of the waterways, offering stunning views of the Dee Valley below.  Day boaters can reach the pretty mountain-side town of Llangollen in two hours. ****Day boat hire from Trevor starts at £120 for up to 10 people, £160 on weekends and bank holidays.

  1. Catch a lift on the lowland canals in Scotland – from Falkirk at the junction of the Forth & Clyde and Union canals in Scotland, day boat hirers can travel through the incredible Falkirk Wheel, the World’s first rotating boat lift and along the Union Canal to Polmont, where they can moor up and enjoy a short walk to The Claremont Inn. Or continue on to the canalside Bridge 49 café bar and bistro, next to Causewayend Marina. ****Day boat hire on the ‘Jaggy Thistle’ which can carry up to eight passengers, is £220, Friday to Sunday.

 

  1. Visit the ‘Cathedral of the Canals’ – Drifters’ base at Anderton on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Cheshire, is next to the historic Anderton Boat Lift. This incredible edifice, also known as ‘the Cathedral of the canals’, looks like some giant three-storey-high iron spider and provides a 50-foot vertical link between two navigable waterways – the River Weaver and the Trent and Mersey Canal.  From Anderton, the canalside Leigh Arms at Little Leigh (bridge 209 for Black Price forge), offering home-cooked pub food and cask ales, is an easy day trip away. ****Day boat hire from Anderton starts at £99 for up to 12 people.

 

  1. Glide through the Brecon Beacons – from Goytre Wharf on the beautiful Monmouth & Brecon Canal near Abergavenny, enjoy incredible mountain views on the two-and-a-half-hour journey to the popular Star pub at Mamhillad, a short walk from bridge 62. ****Day hire from Goytre starts at £99.

  1. Explore Shakespeare’s country – from Wootton Wawen on the Stratford Canal near Stratford Upon Avon, boaters can head south to the pretty village of Wilmcote and back (2.5 hours each way), and enjoy lunch at The Mary Arden Inn and a visit to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Mary Arden’s Farm. ****Day boat hire from Wootton Wawen starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

 

  1. Wend your way through Wiltshire – from Hilperton Marina near Trowbridge in Wiltshire on the beautiful Kennet & Avon, cruise east through unspoilt countryside to the waterside Barge Inn at Seend, or head west to historic Bradford on Avon, with its stunning medieval Tithe Barn and choice of pubs, cafes and restaurants. ****Day boat hire from Hilperton starts at £99 on a boat for 10 people.

  1. Experience the rural North Oxford Canal – from Stretton-under-Fosse near Rugby, cruise north through open farmland to the pretty village of Ansty with its pottery and Rose & Castle pub. Or head south, travelling through quiet woodland to the village of Newbold, and enjoy home cooked food at the canalside Barley Mow pub.  ****Day boat hire from Rugby starts at £180 for a boat for 12 people, £220 on weekends and bank holidays, £200 on weekdays in July and August.

 

  1. Chug along the Staffs & Worcs Canal – from Great Haywood on the Staffordshire & Worcester Canal near Stafford, cruise to the historic market town of Rugeley and back, through several locks, past Lord Lichfield’s beautiful Shugborough Hall and the delightful Wolseley Arms at Wolseley Bridge. The journey there and back takes a total of six hours.  ****Day boat hire from Great Haywood starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

 

  1. Sightseeing along ‘The Shroppie’ – from Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal near Crewe, cruise north past Barbridge and Nantwich to Baddington Bridge. With no locks to negotiate and plenty of pubs en route, it’s a delightful way to spend the day afloat.  ****Day boat hire from Bunbury starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

 

  1. Tunnel through rural Worcestershire – from Tardebigge on the Worcs & Birmingham Canal near Bromsgrove, cruise north to Kings Norton Junction, a pretty rural route with historic pubs along the way, including the family-friendly Hopwood House at Hopwood. The route is lock-free but there are three tunnels to pass through, including Wast Hill Tunnel. ****Day boat hire from Tardebigge starts at £99 for up to 10 people, £140 on weekends and bank holidays.

  1. Discover the beauty of Berkshire – from Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal in West Berkshire, day-boaters can travel east to Tyle Mill Lock in just over two hours, and take a ten-minute walk to The Spring Inn in the pretty village of Sulhamstead for lunch. Up to eight people can enjoy a day out on Aldermaston’s day boat ‘Wyvern’.  ****Day hire at Aldermaston starts at £125.

 

  1. Visit Foxton Locks – from Union Wharf in Market Harborough it’s a pleasant two-and-a-half hour cruise to the top of Foxton Locks, with stunning views of the Leicestershire countryside, plenty of places to picnic and the historic Foxton Locks Inn. Visitors can watch canal boats negotiate the famous Foxton Staircase flight of locks and find out about the intriguing Victorian Foxton Inclined Plane Boat Lift that once operated there at the tiny little museum dedicated to it.*****Day boat hire at Market Harborough starts at £150 during the week for up to 12 people, £200 at weekends and bank holidays.

 

  1. Enjoy a Shropshire rural idyll…from Whitchurch in rural Shropshire, day boaters can head west along the beautiful Llangollen Canal, reaching Whixall Mosses National Nature Reserve in two hours. For a longer journey, continue on to Bettisfield Mosses, travelling through unspoilt countryside straddling the Welsh borders.  There are no locks, but there are four easily-operated lift bridges along the way. ****Day boat hire at Whitchurch starts at £99 per day for 10 people.

  1. Perfect picnicking on the Llangollen Canal…from Blackwater Meadow on the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire, day boaters can head east to Whixall Moss, one of Shropshire’s truly remote wild places, and a mecca for a diversity of wildlife with plenty of lovely places to picnic. Or head West, passing a series of farms, small villages and distant hills, to the Narrowboat Inn at Whittington, with Real Ale and a delightful canalside garden. ****Day boat hire at Blackwater Meadow starts at £99 per day for 10 people.

 

For more information about Drifters Waterway Holidays call 0344 984 0322 or visit www.drifters.co.uk For more information about visiting the canal network, go to www.canalrivertrust.org.uk

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Have you ever wanted to write a novel, memoir or short story but don’t have the time? Do you have the ideas, but the words don’t flow? I can help. Contact me for a confidential chat.

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I am happy to carry out research, conduct interviews, and write/edit articles of any length. Contact me for more information about my rates and services.

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From your home page to your about me details and everything in between, you want a website that has snappy, interesting, high quality content. Let me create it for you.

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If you have a product that you want others to know about, you need a sales letter that is going to get attention – and keep it. I can write that letter for you.

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Are you thinking of starting an email campaign but don’t know what to include? Or perhaps you want to send a special email to that special someone, but you can’t think of the right words. Contact me and we can discuss exactly what I can do to help.

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Selling products online can be an excellent way of making a business, but if your products sound boring and your descriptions are dull, no one will want them. I’ve written thousands of products descriptions, and I can make your products shine.

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About MeAbout Me

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REVIEWS

I started writing in my late teens but it was only with the birth of my daughter that I decided to write more seriously, with the aim of publication. Since that decision in 2010, I have had over 40 short stories published in anthologies and magazines.

Find out more about my publications on my Amazon Author Page.

I am the features and online editor for insideKENT and insideSUSSEX magazines.

I am also a freelance writer who has ghost-written hundreds of blog posts, articles, reviews, fiction, and more.

I live with my husband, daughter, and a cat called Cheryl in the Kent countryside next door to a field full of horses.

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Exercise For Mental Health

The idea of exercise is always a positive one. The reality, of course, is often far different. By the time we get home from work we’re often exhausted or too busy to do any meaningful exercise. And it’s not just in the evenings that we have trouble getting it done – exercise is the thing that most often falls to the bottom of the to do list.

Yet knowing how important it is and how it can actively improve your mental health might be what makes the difference and gives you the impetus to do just half an hour or so of good exercise each day. Read on to find out just what it is about working out that keep your mental health positive.

mental health

Stress Relief for Better Mental Health

Studies have shown that exercising is good for reducing your stress levels. Stress can take a terrible toll on your mental health, and everyone is stressed to some degree. Some stresses might be small, easily dealt with, short term problems, and these are completely normal.

Others, however, might be much more dangerous. Long term – chronic – stress can cause many different health issues including:

  • Heart disease
  • Heart attacks
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Organ failure
  • Ulcers

But it’s not just physical problems that long term stress will cause. Your mental health will suffer too. You could develop depression or anxiety, for example. So ideally you will want to reduce your stress as much as possible, and if you can do it without taking medication then all the better.

Exercise is a great way to relieve stress. When you are concentrating on working out, playing sports, taking a brisk walk, or however else you want to exercise, you aren’t thinking of the problems that are causing you stress. Even if it’s just for a little while, your work issues, relationships, money worries, even your health situation, can be forgotten, and if you can do that, your stress levels will reduce.

Better Social Life

Loneliness is a condition that is bad for your mental health if it goes on too long (although a little ‘me time’ every now and then can actually help you feel better). If you join a gym or go to a regular exercise class, or if you go running and get to see other people, for example, you can alleviate that loneliness for a little while.

Even for the most introverted of people, this brief moment of connectivity could be enough to make your loneliness disappear.

mental health

Anger Control

Some people have a problem controlling their anger, and this can make them become stressed which, as mentioned above, has a lot of problems associated with it. It can also cause problems with relationships, leading to loneliness, and it can make work difficult.

A good exercise regime will help to quell those feelings of anger, keeping them under control and allowing you an outlet for your emotions. When you get back to ‘real life’ you will feel happier, healthier, and find it easier to let things go rather than become angry over small issues.

If you find that your anger issues are more deep seated and exercise helps but only temporarily, then seeking expert advice is always the best course of action – your life is important and you need to be happy for as much of it as possible.

Conclusion

Exercise is something that we should all try to incorporate into our lives when we can. It might not be every day, it might not even be a regular occurrence to begin with, but getting started in the most important step. After that, as with anything, the more you practice the better you will get and the better it will feel.

Is Your Workplace Toxic?

Work takes up a huge amount of every day, so it makes sense that it should be a good place to be – you should enjoy your work, and your workplace, otherwise every other aspect of your life is going to be affected. You might even develop mental illnesses such as depression and stress, or your unhappiness might manifest in physical ways; heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, ulcers, and much more can all come about from working somewhere unpleasant.

Not enjoying your job is one thing, but what if you are actually working in a toxic workplace? This is when the situation becomes desperate, and finding a new job should be a top priority. Here are some of the signs that your workplace is making you not just unhappy, but potentially unwell.

workplace
Is your team supportive?

You Dread Going To Work

On occasion (usually on a Monday morning after a lovely weekend at home), everyone is going to ‘dread’ going to work. But is it really a dread, or is it just a feeling of preferring not to? When you actively dread heading off to your workplace in the morning, and that dread is there every single day, then there is clearly a problem. Your workplace could be a toxic one.

You should never feel this way about your job. Life is too short, and there are many opportunities out there for you; you may have to retrain or think laterally about where your skills can take you, but being happy is the main thing and that is what you really need to consider.

You Don’t Feel Appreciated

Getting feedback at work is crucial for anyone to develop and become more successful. If you never hear a word from your boss about how you are doing, or you’re always the one doing the chasing when you want some kind of critique on a project or assignment you have been doing, then you are sure to feel under-appreciated.

When this happens, you might become less productive; what’s the point in bending over backwards if no one cares that you are working hard and going the extra mile? Something that you used to think matters will now how a much lower place in your heart and mind.

That’s not right.

You should be able to love what you do, feel appreciated, and feel good about the work you are carrying out. You should be able to work in a supportive workplace. Not even being acknowledged is a bad sign and one that you shouldn’t ignore.

workplace
Workplace stress is toxic

Your Workplace Worries You Even On Days Off

When you have a day off from work, what do you do? Do you enjoy it, not think about work at all (or if you do it’s only to determine the next step and what you will start with when you get back to it), and relax? Or do you constantly worry about your job, finding it frustrating and irritating? Does it make you angry? Are you unable to wind down?

If the latter is the case for you, it’s time to get out. It’s true that work is important, but it’s not everything – you need to make time for yourself and your family and anything else you want to do. If work is taking up all of your rest time as well as your work time, something’s wrong.

Conclusion

If something feels wrong about your place of work, whether it’s something tangible or just a gut feeling, and if that place of work is making you miserable or even ill, you need to leave. Yes, that can be easier said than done, and finding a new job isn’t always easy, but if you don’t start the search then you’ll never find your next – happier – position.

DODGY DÉCOR FAILS ARE COSTING HOME SELLERS CASH INVESTING JUST £300 CAN ADD UP TO £10K ON TO YOUR HOUSE VALUE
  • Aldi teamed up with interiors star, Anna Ryder Richardson, to makeover a home in under two hours for just £300 adding an average of over £8k to the property’s value
  • One in five buyers say that hideous décor is one of the biggest turn-offs when looking for a house
  • Nearly half (44%) offered less for a property because the interior was not to their taste

New research released by Aldi has revealed that almost one in five (19%) Brits claim that dodgy décor can be one of the biggest turn-offs when house viewing. Aldi surveyed 2,000 UK home owners to celebrate their Kirkton House range, which features a choice of quality interior products at everyday amazing prices.

Following the research, Aldi challenged home interiors star, Anna Ryder Richardson, to add value to a property with a budget of only £300, and using just the Aldi Kirkton House interiors range. The three bedroom, semi-detached home in Dartford, Kent, was evaluated by three local estate agents, before and after the makeover, and the property’s value increased by up to £10,000 across each valuation* – simply thorough decluttering, furniture rearrangement and the addition of stylist interior accessories. Watch the video on https://www.aldi.co.uk/kirkton-house.

According to the survey, quick upgrades can make a big difference for 34% of home buyers who say that stylish furnishings make them more likely to buy. The kitchen came out on top, with almost three quarters (72%) stating it’s the most important room to look good during a viewing. Real estate turn-offs were dark rooms (50%), awkward layouts (36%) and overgrown gardens (32%).

After seven viewings sellers consider making changes to their home to help shift it, with desperate owners splashing out on average £900 to finally make a sale. When it comes to age, image-conscious 18-34 year olds are spending over five times more (£3,131) than the thrifty 55+’s, who on average part with just £543 to shift their property.

Home interiors star, Anna Ryder Richardson, comments: “Together with Aldi, we’ve proven that you don’t need to break the bank to spruce up your interiors and help make that sale. We spent a third of what home buyers think they need to spend and increased the property’s value by an average of over £8k! It’s easy to invest a small amount and make a big difference. Here are some tips from the makeover to try at home:

  • Define the space in each room. A beautiful woven rug can indicate how a room should be used and brighten up a space in one easy step – try placing a colourful option in the centre of the living room to create a fun colour pop like the Aldi Kirkton House flatweave rug in navy blue
  • Make sure your rooms look spacious, appealing and homely. Consider the layout of the room and whether it feels welcoming to walk into – decluttering is a must and try shuffling the furniture around to experiment with different arrangements. Aldi’s Kirkton House Adjustable Desk Lamp will help to light up any room and add a warm feel
  • For house viewers, the kitchen is key – make sure your dirty plates aren’t still in the sink and set-up table places and crockery to show viewers what your home would look like to really live in it. Aldi’s wide range of quality Kirkton House cutlery and dinnerware can help to set the scene
  • Think about the overall interior design in your house – do you have personal items on display that perhaps don’t match the décor? Take down a few personal pictures here and there for a slicker look. Aldi’s Kirkton House storage baskets will come in handy here!
  • Make first impressions count and don’t forget your hallway! Place a nice welcome mat down and tidy-up shoes lying around in the space – Aldi’s Kirkton House Designer Lounge and Hallway range has hallway-specific show stoppers from a stencilled, geometric-design mat to a fun cactus hallway doorstop
  • Make the most of your outside space and opt for bright colours for the garden – colourful, patterned cushions and garden dining ware will come to life against the organic backdrop of green grass and bright flowers. Aldi’s Kirkton House Printed PVC Tablecloth in lemon print and decorative glass balloons will look fantastic in the sunshine and spruce up any garden”

Julie Ashfield, Managing Director of Buying at Aldi, said: “As the housing market is so uncertain, we’re happy that we can offer the security of consistently low prices in the Kirkton House home range. With a choice of quality and everyday products, the range can help you upgrade your home on a budget.”

THE UK TOUR OF LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE

Lucy O’Byrne and Mark Moraghan are to join the cast of the quirky off-Broadway hit musical Little Miss Sunshine for its UK tour which begins at Churchill Theatre, Bromley on 16 May 2019.

Irish actress and singer Lucy O’Byrne will star as Sheryl, the matriarch of the eccentric Hoover family. Lucy shot to fame on The Voice (BBC) in 2015 and was the runner-up that year. Her theatre credits include Eva Peron in the Evita UK tour which ran at the Churchill Theatre in July 2018, Fantine in Les Misérables (Queen’s Theatre – West End), Maria in The Sound of Music (UK and Ireland Tour), River Woman in Therese Raquin (Park Theatre) and Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof (Gaiety Theatre-Dublin).

Mark Moraghan will be Grandpa (the role that won Alan Arkin an Academy award).  Mark recently appeared as Tim Richards in Emmerdale and is perhaps best known for his roles as Adrian Mortimer in Coronation Street, Owen Davis in Holby City, Ray Wyatt in Dream Team, Greg Shadwick in Brookside and Eddie Quinn in London’s Burning.

Busy Times…

It’s been a while since I last posted anything on my blog, but I do have a good reason (excuse?) for that… I have a new job.

Although freelance writing is what I love to do, it just doesn’t pay the bills, plus it has meant that I haven’t written any fiction – my favourite thing – for a year or more. So I had to find something else to do; something that would suit my lifestyle, allow me to continue to write, and (hopefully) bring in some more money. Because, let’s face it, as much as we might like to, we can’t live without it.

I joined The Good Estate Agent, and I’m now covering the Sevenoaks area. Here’s a little video of what I do:

 

How To Ensure Your Employees Feel Valued

If you have a job that you don’t feel appreciated in and you feel that no matter what you do your efforts are just not noticed, you will begin to feel as though you shouldn’t bother working so hard anymore. You will feel as though you should even look elsewhere for a job where you can work with people who will appreciate you more. If you are an employer, this is not something that you want to happen; you want your employees to stay with you and help your company grow. To do this, they need to feel valued, so here are some ways to ensure that they do.

Talk To Them

One way to ensure that your employees feel appreciated and valued is to talk to them. This can include work details, of course, but that would happen anyway – to go the extra mile you need to talk to them about themselves. Find out about their family and their hobbies away from work, where they live and what they enjoy doing. When you speak to them again, remember what they said and bring it up in conversation where possible. This will show that you listened and that you took in what was said – and, of course, that you remembered it all.

It can also be beneficial to organize days away from work where you can get to know your employees better. These team building days are great for discovering exactly what your team is really like, and what they can do, plus they’re fun and can be seen as a reward.

Praise Them

It’s all too easy to just accept that someone has done a good job and then give them something else to do without saying much (if anything) about it. However, that won’t leave them feeling very valued, and can even make them think that you are taking them for granted. Therefore, when someone does something good, praise them. This could be simply saying well done, and acknowledging that they have achieved something, or you could go further and include the good work in a newsletter, or award employee of the month or similar.

You can also share good client feedback about a member of the team. Although it’s great to get praise from a manager, for example, it can feel even better to get it from someone from outside of the company.

Give Them Challenges

Another way to show someone that you value their input into the business is to challenge them. Giving them easy work to do all the time can get rather boring after a while, and if they don’t feel happy doing their work because they are bored, they may still want to look elsewhere. If you can give them a challenge out of their usual remit such as cold calling customers, or even designing a page on the website, they will feel as though you value them because you believe in them enough to ask them to do something they wouldn’t normally do. On top of that, they will learn something new too – and that is never boring.

5 Ways To Offer Your Customers Added Value

Running your own business isn’t always all about what you want to do; sometimes (most of the time) it’s about what your customers want, which means that you need to work out how to give them everything they need in such a way that they will return time and again. Offering something of added value, whether online or in a physical store, is one way to do that.

Giving your customers added value will be hard work initially, but once you have done it (and you have systems in place to allow you to continue to do it) you will make more money, have better profits, and your business will thrive because of it. Not only that, but you will be ahead of your competition, which is always a good thing. Take a look at the following ways of adding value to your business and see which ones you can implement.

Quick And Efficient

It used to be the case that people were happy to wait for whatever it was they had ordered. It could take weeks, perhaps even months, for their purchase to be ready and for it to be dispatched. Today, no one wants to wait that long – no one really wants to wait at all. Therefore, when someone orders something from you, whether it’s a product or a service, they expect it as soon as possible. Some even require it on the same day, and most would prefer next day delivery where they can get it. If you can promise that you will deliver on the next working day, your business will stand out and you will find that more people choose to use your services.

What will really add value for your customers is getting this speedy service without having to pay for it. Whereas some companies will charge for next day delivery, you could take on those costs yourself. Although it would be a higher initial cost, over time you will find more customers so it would be canceled out. It’s important to do this because you are equating your business with efficient, inexpensive service.

The Best Quality

It’s not always possible to beat your competitors when it comes to pricing; if you start to price your goods too low, you will stop making a profit (and you might even make a loss). So if you can’t stand out due to your pricing, you will need to look at other ways to do it and the best way is to provide items or services that are of exceptional quality. If you do this, the higher price won’t matter because people will be willing to pay for something that is above average.

Remember that determining something’s quality is all down to the customer; if something is of high quality it is because the customer believes it to be do. Therefore, you will need to carry out market research to work out what it is that your customers want (and need).

Give Them A Gift

Everyone loves a free gift and if that gift happens to be able to do some advertising for you at the same time, then it is doubly useful. You don’t have to give something away to every customer who buys something from you, but if you choose to give, for example, iPhone cases to the customers who spend the most with you, or who refer their friends, or even who write a glowing testimonial, then they are going to receive even more value for money. This will go a long way and although you will need to spend at first, the return you get on this kind of investment should be excellent, and well worth the initial cost.

Choose something that has your name and logo on it, and the more the gift is used, the more your name will be noticed. This adds value to the process for you too, which will help you with lowering your marketing costs.

Be There

If you can be available as much of the time as possible, you are automatically offering your customers even more added value. You will need to be as responsive to emails as possible, and reply to comments on social media as quickly as you can. Answer the telephone within two or three rings and this will all ensure that your business appears to put the customer first. These may only be small acts when you look at the big picture, but these are the ones that can make the biggest difference.

Of course, you can’t possibly be around 24 hours a day to answer emails and comments quickly, and this is where you can utilize new technology to your advantage. You could include a chat bot on your website so that questions can be answered at all times of the day and night, or you could make an app that is intuitive and allows customers to work through the process without having to get in touch in the first place (another bonus for them).

Fix Problems

Added value comes in many forms, and one of those forms is being able to fix problems when they occur. No one is perfect, and issues will arise through no one’s fault (or sometimes a genuine mistake has occurred). What the problem is is far less important than how it is solved and what happens afterwards.

Every company is going to work hard towards fixing any problems that occur, but will every company offer something to any customer who has been inconvenienced by the problem? The answer is probably not, but you can and that will make you stand out and give your customers added value. You could give them a discount on their next purchase, or coupons that they can use or give away to their friends, for example. You might go even further and ask them to come in to take a look around your workspace to see how things are done, if that is something that would interest them.

How To Have A Debt Free Retirement

If you truly want to retire, you will need to pay off all of your debts before you stop working – if not, you may have to delay your retirement plans and continue to work just to service those debts. When you reach retirement age, you will want to enjoy life and see and do as many things as possible – the things you couldn’t necessarily see and do when you were working. So being debt free is something you should work towards. Here are some ways to do it.

Save

The simplest way to pay off your debts is to save money. Open up a separate savings account and put all your ‘spare’ money into it. When you have enough to pay off a loan or credit card entirely, you can take the money out and do so. At the same time, you will need to stop borrowing, so lock the credit card away (for emergency use only) and don’t take on any more finance or loans, otherwise as quickly as you pay one thing off, you’ll have something else to save up for. It’s far better to buy things outright, even if you have to dip into your savings to do so, than it is to borrow because when borrowing you will have to factor in interest, and that can make things very expensive.

Once everything is paid off, continue to save and use that money to fund your retirement plans. If you start early, you will have plenty of money to enjoy some exciting trips and start some wonderful new hobbies.

Start Investing

Investment is another good way of paying off debts and funding your retirement at the same time. If you do your research first and learn as much as possible about what you are doing when it comes to investment, you can make a good return on your initial payment, and pay off your debts much more quickly. You can invest in almost anything including stocks and shares, property, and other businesses. Once you have decided where you want to put the money, finding a broker is a good idea so that you can make the most of your investment.

Downsize

If you own a property and you’re paying a mortgage on it, will that mortgage be paid off by the time you come to retire? This can be the biggest debt you owe, but you may not consider it a debt and it may not figure in your plans. However, if you’re not working, are you going to be able to continue to pay your mortgage? If not, downsizing is a good option. When you downsize, you sell your current home and buy something cheaper (and usually smaller). That way, if you choose wisely at the right time, you may not have a mortgage left at all – and you might even have money left over, which can be used to pay off any remaining debts.

4 Ways To Keep Your Employees Motivated

Having a motivated workforce can make a big difference when it comes to how profitable and productive your business is. It’s your job as an employer to ensure that your team is motivated and happy. There are a number of different ways that this can be done, and here are some of them to consider. Not all will work for all people and all businesses, so take a look and decide for yourself what will work for you.

Be A Supportive Leader

In many cases, good leadership can be a huge factor in employee motivation. If you are going to be supportive you need to work closely with your team but also allow them some freedoms to work on their own initiative. Getting this balance right can be difficult, but once you have found it you will discover that it definitely helps with your employees’ motivation levels.

A good leader always holds themselves to a higher level of accountability and will own up to any mistakes they make (which they will because, after all, no one is perfect). That means working with a data loss specialist to prevent devastating losses, and it means taking responsibility for errors made within the company when it comes to customers, for example.

Empower Individuals

When an employee feels empowered and valued as an individual, they will work harder for their employer. Make sure that you allow your entire workforce to the chance to show what they can do. Even if they don’t quite manage it as you might have liked, giving them the opportunity is what really counts and it will make them work much harder in the future too.

Have A Positive Workplace

With so much time spent at the office, the working environment needs to be as positive as possible in order to get the best out of people. If it’s dull or uninspiring or even uncomfortable in any way, your employees will simply want to leave at the earliest opportunity and it’s unlikely that they will look forward to returning in the morning. This is not conducive to great work.

Making the office a great place to be by ensuring it is well decorated and has everything that your employees might need such as tea and coffee making facilities, a comfortable break room, even indoor plants and pictures, can really help to push them to do their best.

Reward Good Work

The best employees are the ones that want to work hard for you, but those who are doing so, and getting results, without hearing anything from you in response are going to become demotivated very quickly. Therefore, you need to look out for good work and reward it where necessary. This could be as simple as calling a meeting to praise that employee, or you might want to give them something such as vouchers or flowers. It’s these small touches that will keep an employee motivated for longer.

Etiquette For Dining Out In Portugal

Whether you’re in Portugal for a vacation or a business trip, you’re going to want to eat out at least some of the time you’re there (and the food is so good in Portugal that you might even want to eat out for every meal). If that’s the case, then it’s important to know the right Portuguese restaurant etiquette so that you can be comfortable and relaxed knowing you’re not making any faux pas that could embarrass you, your guests, the other diners, or the staff themselves. Here are some of the most important pieces of etiquette to be aware of.

Should You Seat Yourself?

The short answer is no, you shouldn’t, unless you’re in a café or bar. If you’re in a normal kind of restaurant then it’s better to wait by the counter or the ‘to be seated’ sign if there is one and look for a waiter or waitress to help you. Busy restaurants mean that if you seat yourself you won’t always be spotted which results in long waiting times for you and frustrated staff because they didn’t realize you were there.

Free Food?

In Portugal, just as pretty much everywhere else, there isn’t really any such thing as free food. However, you would be forgiven for assuming that you have been given something for nothing when, after getting you seated, your waiter or waitress brings out a plate of what is called ‘entradas’. They won’t have asked you what you wanted, or even if you wanted something, but unless you tell them otherwise, it will be brought to you. This is an appetizer and will be added to your final check so be aware of this before you begin to question what is on your bill. Remember, though, that dining out in Portugal is not an overly expensive thing to do, so it shouldn’t cause too much of an issue on your budget and won’t eat into the loan (or emprestimo) you got to fund your trip.

You Don’t Have To Order Extra Vegetables

When you look at the menu of a Portuguese restaurant you’ll notice that there is very little description for each dish. Whereas in the States you’ll get lots of fancy phrases and plenty of information about exactly what comes with the meat, fish, or vegetable dish you are ordering, in Portugal it’s different. There you will find that people assume each dish will come with the right accompaniments. For example, fish tends to be served with boiled potatoes or a salad, and meat dishes will often come with white rice or fries; it will all depend on what you order and how the particular restaurant you have picked works.

Look For The Plate Of The Day

When you’re choosing your food at lunch time, you should look out for the plate of the day (the pratos do dia). This will often be handwritten on a piece of paper and stuck to the window or menu board, so it could be easy to miss if you’re not looking for it, and that would be a shame. The plate of the day consists of whatever was caught fresh that morning by the local fishermen, and it will be something different each day; even if the fish is the same, how it is prepare will vary. It is always worth trying because it tends to be cheaper than other dishes on the menu and is always something interesting.

Order The House Wine

It can be a little embarrassing to order the house white or red in a restaurant at home because that wine tends to be inexpensive and not always that pleasant. In Portugal ordering the house wine makes a lot of sense because it is going to be locally produced and sourced, great value, and it will compliment the dishes you have ordered perfectly. The restaurants in Portugal take pride in being able to match their wines to their food. Ordering the house wine is what the locals will most often do, so it just shows you what a good idea it is. Don’t forget to note down the name of the wine so that you can look out for it elsewhere too.

Don’t Ask For Substitutions

In many restaurants in the States and in other places in the world you can choose a dish from the menu but ask for it to be made with this or that ingredient instead of one of the ones mentioned in the description. You might want extra cheese, or you might want the dish without capsicums, or any other changes that take your fancy. This is not the done thing in Portugal, and what you see on the menu is what you’ll tend to get served to you. Even if you do ask for something to be changed in most cases it won’t be, so it’s best just to order and enjoy rather than trying to get the busy chef to make substitutions.

Your Water

Unless you specifically ask for it, water won’t be provided to your table, so if you want it make sure you mention it to your server. You’ll have a few choices when it comes to your water, and one of these is not something you are likely to come across at home – you’ll need to choose whether you wanted the water chilled (fresca) or at room temperature (natural). In Many European countries the preference is for room temperature water, even on the hottest of days, so make sure you do ask for fresca if you prefer your water colder. You can also choose between sparkling (com gas) or still (sem gas).

No Hands

In Portugal it is seen as bad manners to use your hands to eat, even if you are enjoying a burger or a pizza. Therefore, it’s much more polite for you to use your knife and fork. This may feel a little strange, but if you don’t want to stand out you should try it – you’ll soon get the idea.