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Monthly January 2018
How To Choose The Right Accounting Firm For Your Business

If you run a small business then it’s important to hire an accountant to help you. Even if you have a good head for figures, the time that doing the accounts will take up is valuable time that you could be spending on other elements of the business. Therefore, you should look into hiring an accountant as soon as you can, so that you’re not suddenly having to look for one without being able to do all the important groundwork first. There are certain things that need to be considered before you start paying an accountant, and we will go through them here.

Location

In the past, it was essential that a company accountant was located near to the company’s office. They had to be able to visit when they needed to, to go through files and papers. Today, however, location isn’t necessarily a factor that will make a difference. There is cloud accounting and online discussions that can be used instead of physically having to be in close proximity. This can make your search for the best accountant for your business much easier, as you are not limited by location, although you will need to ensure that they understand the specific tax laws that relate to your business and your geographical area. If, however, you like the idea of someone coming to your place of work and being able to ask you questions face to face, then you will need to look more locally; you will also need to ensure that the accountant works in this manner, as it is becoming more and more unusual. Before choosing an accountant, you will need to have this decision firm in your mind.

Certified Accountant

Accountants are regulated by professional bodies. These bodies also provide qualifications and maintain professional standards, so finding an accountant who adheres to these standards, and who has these qualifications is important. If something does go wrong, you as a business owner will have some recourse to complain, and potentially take things even further, to court if necessary. If you have narrowed down your search to a small number of accountants then you should look into what specific qualifications they have. They should have a degree, plenty of experience, and of course the certification as well. When it comes to accountants, it is worth hiring the best you can afford right at the start, as it will serve you well and potentially save you a lot of money down the line.

Expertise

However you go about searching for an accountant, you should engage someone with the relevant expertise to work in your business. Not only should they have experience working in a business of a similar size and with a similar turnover to yours, but you’ll also ideally want someone who has worked in a business in a similar sector too. There are many different quirks and changes in tax laws that can affect specific businesses, so hiring an accountant who will already know about any changes, or be able to access the information, can save you time and money. An accountant who understands the unique needs of your business is all-important. You might also want to consider whether the accountant has worked with businesses that are bigger than yours. That way, if and when you do grow, you will be able to keep your trusted accountant with you.

Word Of Mouth

As with anything, word of mouth and a personal recommendation can be the best way to engage any kind of professional services. Ask around your friends and family, ask your business connections and your suppliers, find out who they use and how happy they are with them. Discuss the pros and cons of working with that specific accountant, and talk about how much they are charging. Although discussions like these many not be the most interesting in the world, or the easiest since you will need to talk about money, they are essential. You may find the ideal accountant this way, but remember that engaging an accountant does need to be a personal decision, and shouldn’t be done just because a friend suggests a name. It’s better to take those names and carry out the relevant research before committing to anything.

Software

Most accountants will have their preferred professional tax software to work with. There could be many different reasons for this, and it is entirely their decision. Where it could potentially be an issue is when you are using different software in the day to day running of the accounts. There might be problems when it comes to sharing information, and although there are some programs that allow for exporting and importing data from other systems, it can be a time consuming thing to do. Therefore, find an accountant who uses the same software as you do. If there aren’t very many of them, and it limits your choices, it might be time to ask yourself whether the program you are using is outdated, or simply not good enough. If this is the case, you should upgrade or change entirely. Again, this is time consuming, but once it’s done it makes organizing your finances and paying your taxes much easier.

Look For Money Savers

Some accountants really don’t do much more than complete your tax return and check through your accounts to make sure everything is as it should be. That’s fine – it’s what you are paying for – but there are other accountants to spend a little more time going through those accounts, and who can find ways to save you money. It might only be a little, but it could be a lot, and so it is something that you will definitely want your accountant to do for you. The accountant should also warn you of any pitfalls when it comes to these offsetting ideas as well. For example, there is a chance that a tax will be levied on your home when you come to sell if it you declare that you are using it as a business premises. There is a lot to consider, which is why hiring an accountant who looks at all aspects from every side is important.

The Best Use Of Time And Money

Unless you secure a fixed price deal, most accountants prefer to work and charge by the hour. Therefore, you may not want to have them do the day to day data entry tasks that need to be completed; these don’t have to be done by someone with accounting qualifications, so if you have an administration assistant, secretary, or office manager, they could do the job and save you money. You could even do it yourself if you set aside a specific amount of time per week to get it done. Make sure you do get it done though, otherwise it’s the kind of job that will just get bigger and more complicated over time, and if that happens you will probably hire an accountant to do it anyway. Having great accounting software can make a difference here; if it is intuitive to use then you will be more likely to do the work. If it is a huge effort, you’ll keep putting it off.

Interview Your Accountant

When you start to reach out for accounting assistant, you’ll receive a number of different offers. Don’t just accept the first one you see, or the one with the best price. It’s important to read through each proposal carefully, taking the time to note all the important parts that will make your life easier, and save you money on your taxes where possible. Once you have done that, you should interview each prospective candidate. This may not be possible to do face to face, but over the phone, or through a video chat, is just as useful. It’s essential that you feel you can work with the person you are hiring. Although you may only be in contact a few times a year, that contact should be polite and not something that either party dreads doing. Better – and more – work will be done if everyone gets on well.

Negotiation

There is no single method that accountants use to work out their fees. You might pay by the hour, on a ‘per job’ basis, or perhaps a monthly retainer. You might even be charged a percentage of your turnover. No matter which way it is done, you should always try to negotiate a better deal. Get written quotations from any accountants you are considering and then compare them carefully. One fee structure might make perfect sense now, but will it still work in your favor when your company grows? Or will you be spending more money than you are happy with? When you have determined what you want to pay, and to whom you want to pay it, you can begin your negotiations. It might be best to use a combined method of paying, or something on a sliding scale. The accountant may not agree to your proposals, so ensure that you have a backup plan should that happen.

4 Ways To Ensure Your Customers Don’t Stop Thinking About You

When you run a business, the last thing you want is for your customers to forget about you. You need to be the first company they think of when they need to buy whatever it is you are selling. How can you keep yourself at the front of their minds, and ensure they never stop thinking about you?

Social Media

Thanks to the leaps and bounds made in today’s technology, social media is now something that everyone has access to. For businesses, having a Facebook page, Twitter account, or Instagram account that is regularly updated with interesting and useful information is a great way to keep in your customers’ minds. Your customers will be checking their social media accounts on a regular basis (studies show that the average person looks at their accounts 46 times a day), so you need to be there, telling them about your great offers or why they should buy your goods and services as much as you can. However, just being on social media is not enough – you need to make sure you’re using the right platform (if your goods appeal to the older generation, Snapchat might not be the best account to open, for example). You also need to be consistent, and update your account every day if you can. Plus you need to interact with your followers.

Emails

Email is an efficient and relatively easy way to send out marketing information to your customers, and ensure that they remember who you are and what you do. Just having information, however, no matter how interesting it may be, is the surest way to get people to unsubscribe from your mailing list. As well as the information, make sure there are discount codes, and giveaways. Make sure that the reader knows they will only get these treats because they are signed up to your emails – they will be more likely to stick with you for more.

Blogging

Blogging is a wonderful way to keep your audience engaged on their terms, which can be the difference between success and otherwise. You get to show off what you know about your industry, or let people know about special offers and so on, but you can also use the blogs as part of your social media strategy. These can be the basis of your posts, making them shareable. Blog regularly and consistently well, and people will come to you when they need advice because they will know you know what you’re talking about.

Be Synonymous

Being synonymous with something is a huge advantage. If you want to see a ballet at Christmas, you immediately look at ticket sales for The Nutcracker. If you need ketchup for your burger, Heinz is the name that comes to mind. Think of the phrase ‘Just do it’ and Nike will be the result. If you can create a brand that becomes synonymous with whatever it is you are selling, then you won’t have to work so hard to obtain new customers. Of course, it’s still important to make an effort, but the hard work will already have been done. This will take time and money, of course, but if you do everything else on this list, you could well get there in the end.

4 Reasons Why Exeter Is Perfect Weekend Getaway

Now that Christmas is over and the new year has started, you may be thinking of a long weekend away somewhere, to brush away the cobwebs and begin 2018 in the right frame of mind. Where better than Exeter for this fantastic getaway? Here are my reasons why Exeter is the perfect weekend getaway.

Walking
If one of your new year’s resolutions was to get fitter and healthier, why not start with a mini-break in Exeter? The area contains 368 square metres of forest and moorland, and is sprinkled with gorgeous villages that are ideal for exploring and discovering. You can get to Dartmoor National Park very easily too, or the Jurassic Coast where you can walk along the cliff paths. Or maybe you’d like a guided walk of the city itself – just book yourself onto one. What’s great about walking in Exeter and its surroundings is that you can take your beloved dog away with you on your break too.

Beaches
Exeter is close to dozens of wonderful beaches. Sidmouth, for example, is known for its clean air, and the lovely pebble beach there leads out to calm water – great for kids. If you prefer sand, then you might want to try Exmouth. It can get busy there, as it’s such a great spot, but if you don’t mind the crowds and want to try your hand at some adventurous water sports, this is the beach for you. If fishing is your thing, Beer Head at Lyme Bay will be perfect for you, as you can watch the fishing boats draw right up onto the sands (there is no harbour). Whatever you’re looking for in a beach, Exeter can offer it to you.

History
Exeter is an amazing place for history buffs. The city has a Norman cathedral which features outstanding Gothic architecture – it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area. The historic quayside is an awe-inspiring mix of historic buildings and contemporary design, filled with boutique shops and independent cafes. You can even visit a museum to find out more about the area; the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery is free to enter and will give you many hours of enjoyment.

Outdoor Pursuits
As well as walking, there are many other outdoor pursuits for you to follow in Exeter. Why not hire a bike and ride out along the gorgeous riversides or along the cliff paths? Prefer something a little more alive? Horse riding is a great way to explore the area around Exeter, and there are plenty of places to book an hour or so, with a guide if you prefer. Or you could try your hand at kitesurfing, sailing, diving (there are many wrecks in Lyme Bay, for example, and with expert help you can dive down to them to explore), or windsurfing.

How To Keep Your eCommerce Site Secure

If you had a physical, brick and mortar store in a shopping centre, for example, you would make sure it was secure. You would have CCTV and high-tech locks. You would have shutters and alarm systems. You would never leave it unattended or accessible to thieves or vandals. A website, however, is often left wide open, allowing those will less than savoury ideas to go in and destroy it, stealing customers’ payment details while they are at it. Your business is ruined, and your customers are put in severe difficulties. How, then, can you keep your website as secure as a store in a shopping centre?

eCommerce Hosting

Spending money on the right kind of hosting for your website is a great start. You will have paid a professional to create your website, make it look wonderful, make it look like somewhere that people want to buy from. Placing that fantastic website on a cheap, unsecure hosting platform is where things can go badly wrong. You wouldn’t buy a top of the range mountain bike or sports car and fit it with cheap tyres, so don’t buy cheap when it comes to secure eCommerce hosting. Look around at the best websites, where people buy high-quality items such as theatre tickets or jewellery, and you’ll get an idea of the kind of hosting company to look into.

HTTPS

Every website URL begins with the letter HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol). If you want your entire site to be secure, change to having HTTPS instead. This used to be reserved for just the payment part of a site, but now you can use it on all your web pages, and that makes it even more secure and safe. In fact, having HTTPS in your URL will even help to boost your search engine rankings, as the more secure your site is, the higher it will appear in searches.

Secure Your Admin Area

Having a secure site that your customers are happy to use is essential, so you need to secure every aspect of your site, including your admin area. Most eCommerce platforms will have a default admin area, which can make hacking your site easy – hackers will be able to guess what your admin details are. Changing the username and ensuring that you have a password that’s difficult to guess will make hackers think twice. Why would they waste their time and effort trying to get into your site when they can easily get into another that hasn’t had the admin details upgraded?

Make Regular Backups

Should the worst happen and you wake up to find that your site has been hacked, what are you going to do? Well, if you have a backup of your site you can at least restore it, and start working again. This will limit any downtime you might have. You will still need to deal with the rest of the problems that a hacker has caused for you, but at least your site will be up and running and you won’t be losing too much revenue.

How To Dress For A Court Appearance

There are many reasons why someone might need to go to court. They might be a witness. They might be a juror. They might be the plaintiff or the defendant. Whoever they are, they need to dress appropriately. Here are some ways to work out your wardrobe for this kind of occasion.

Inspiration

You may not know someone who has been to court – after all, it’s an unusual thing that not many of us will get to experience – but that doesn’t mean you can’t seek inspiration when it comes to the clothing you should wear. Courtroom dramas have been around for decades, and if you pick something modern to take a look at, you’ll see the kinds of things that are suitable for wearing in this kind of situation.

Plain And Simple

Whatever you do, don’t wear anything that is distracting. The jury, the judge, and the lawyers all need to be able to listen to the experts, and everyone needs to concentrate. Any kind of clothing that looks out of place, is too bright, is too garish or ‘avant-garde’ will take their attention away from the person they should be listening to. If that person is you, then you definitely want them to listen to what you’re saying, not looking at what you’re wearing. Although fashion is made to be enjoyed, in a courtroom setting, that is not its function – it needs to be smart and tidy and show authority and responsibility.

Colour Splashes

Although you don’t want to distract anyone with your choice of clothing, wearing dark colours such as black, blue, or grey and then adding just a small hint of colour (perhaps a coloured tie or blouse or a pocket square) will lift the outfit and make it look even more professional and tidy. Just the right amount of colour that isn’t a crazy pattern or too bright will work perfectly, giving you the right air of restraint and reliability.

You Don’t Have To Buy New

It’s always nice to buy new when you can, but when you can’t there are ways to make an older outfit look current and smart. A suit never really goes too much out of style (unless it’s decades old, of course!) and this is a safe bet for a court appearance. Pair it with a smart shirt or blouse and shine up your shoes and you will already be looking great. If possible, make sure that your clothes are dry cleaned, or at least laundered before the big day, and please do iron everything that needs ironing. It’s these little things that really can make the difference.

Shop Carefully

If you are planning to buy a new outfit, then shop carefully. Yes, you’ll need to hunt for something appropriate for court, but if you can also make sure that it’s ideal for other occasions such as work, or job interviews, or going out for the evening as well, then it will save you money and it can be work more than once.

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Magazine Writing & research per 1000 400
Magazine Editor per day 250
Magazine Sub-editing per 1000 120
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Newspaper (regional) Sub-editing per 1000 95
Newspaper (regional) Fact checking per day 200
Newspaper (national) Writing & research per 1000 700
Newspaper (national) Sub-editing per 1000 450
Newspaper (national) Fact checking per day 200
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Online/digital media Fact checking per day 200

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WHAT I CAN DO

Blog Writing

A blog is an essential tool in ensuring your website is seen. I can create regular blog posts that will move you up the rankings and give you a better placement within your industry.

Ghost Writing

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.

Articles

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.

Web Content

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.

Sales Letters

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.

Emails

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.

Product Descriptions

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.

Copy Editing & Proofreading

Have you written something that needs that extra level of checking? With my years of experience I can proofread or copy edit your work so that it’s the best it can be.

Social Media Management & Digital Marketing

Getting your digital marketing and social media strategy right is essential. I can provide and implement a social media marketing plan that works for you. Contact me to find out more.

About MeAbout Me

I'm a content writer

Excellent work by Lisamarie, on time, great quality and constant communication. Would not hesitate to recommend and in fact use again as soon as opportunity arises.

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Lisamarie was great to work with - she did a fantastic job that completely met the brief and was delivered before the deadline.

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Lisamarie is a very good writer and is very easy to work with. She reacted well to my guidance and provided me with content I'm very happy to use. I look forward to working with her again soon.

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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.

http://www.facebook.com/lisamarielambwriter

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Theatre Review: Murder, Margaret & Me at The Churchill, Bromley

Agatha Christie… who was she really? Famed for her murders (in print, of course) and in particular for two of the most famous literary creations in history – Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple – her name is known the world over. But who was she? It is this question that is at the heart of Murder, Margaret & Me, a fantastic, funny, dark, heart-breaking play by Philip Meeks.

credit Craig Sugden

Although the main story of the play revolves around two legends meeting, slowly becoming friends, and unravelling one another’s secrets, it begins with Agatha Christie. It has to. She, after all, made it all happen. Yet at this point in her career she has become ‘a brand’. She is losing her name (and herself) thanks to the demands of the tax man, and it scares her. It is forcing her agree to making her beloved Miss Marple into a motion picture, heaven forfend, and – worse still – rather than the birdlike, diminutive Miss Marple of her imagination, it is screen legend Margaret Rutherford, a large and loud lady known for her eccentricity and comedic turns, who is taking on the role (albeit reluctantly – murder is, after all, a sordid business). Why is she doing it? The tax man, of course.

So this is the set up of Murder, Margaret & Me. Two older women forced to become colleagues due to money, both doing something they never thought they would.

And then comes the murder. And the mystery. And, perhaps inevitably, Jane Marple is on the scene. Literally. She hovers over everything, never quite explained, a figment of both women’s imaginations perhaps, and it is in ‘The Spinster’ that they finally agree. They both know what Marple should be like, what she would say, how she would look, and it could indeed be this spectre at the feast (a gentile one who misses nothing and knows everything) that brings them together, pushes them apart, and then makes them friends once more.

Both women have a secret, you see, and neither wants the other to know about it. The difference between them is that Margaret Rutherford is quite happy to know nothing of what happened when Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days in 1926, whereas Christie is unable to let go of the mystery surrounding Rutherford’s family and its dark past.

credit Craig Sugden

I know a lot about Agatha Christie. I have read the books, seen the films, the plays, the television series… so a lot of what was revealed about her was no surprise (although very nicely done; Lin Blakley does the famous writer justice), but I had no clue about Margaret Rutherford other than she played Miss Marple and that Christie wasn’t overly impressed with the idea at the start. Now, thanks to the play and to Sarah Parks’ impeccable performance, I want to know more. Much more. How could this legend of stage and screen, this tragic heroine in real life, have passed me by? This is the power of Murder, Margaret & Me – it has opened up new worlds and I have to explore them now.

Special mention must also go to The Spinster (who needs no introduction) who manipulates and pushes and pulls our two ladies in the direction they are meant to go in. Played by Gilly Tompkins, she is the Miss Marple we all know and love.

See Murder, Margaret & Me at The Churchill Theatre, Bromley, until 28th September: https://churchilltheatre.co.uk/Online/tickets-murder-margaret-me-bromley-2019

Revealed: Brits’ most desired smart bathroom technology #ad

83% of Brits’ desire a self-cleaning toilet!

66% of Brits’ want mood lighting fitted in their bathtub.

69% of Brits’ dream of digital controls for precise temperature, spray and timing in their shower.

Sanitising bathroom accessories tops list of bathroom technologies homeowners are dying to try!

A good lather and soak in the bath is the perfect antidote to stress, which is why more and more of us are turning to our powder room as a place to relax and unwind.

Accordingly, homeowners are seeking technologies to heighten their bathroom experience, taking lavatories, restrooms and water closets from humble necessity to the highlight of the home.

Interested in learning more about the relationship between homeowners and the latest smart bathroom technologies available, bathroom and shower experts Showerstoyou.co.uk surveyed 1,424 British proprietors to identify the tech features that most appeal to them.

It may come as no surprise when it comes to the toilet, homeowners most desire a self-cleaning feature (83%), followed by a self-deodoriser function (55%) and the ability to generate a heated seat (31%.)

69% of Brits are vocal about digital controls for precise temperature, spray and timing as the tech trend they most desire in the shower, followed by mood lighting (55%) and built-in sound – ideal for those that enjoy a shower-sing-along – at 48%.

Similarly, mood lighting (66%) tops the list of features British homeowners would most like to see fitted in their bathtub, followed by a built-in scented mist dispenser (62%) and a built-in heated backrest (41%); perfect for those sumptuous soaks.

In terms of general bathroom tech, a vast majority of Brits’ surveyed by Showers to You selected temperature control/thermostat smart control as the “general” feature they would like to see in their bathroom – at 62%.

Water conservation technology came second (41%); highlighting homeowners are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious within their homes; a trend which will likely ascend.

Wall-mounted, touch-panel interface was voted the third most-desired general smart bathroom technology (34%.)

The 5-bathroom technologies homeowners dream of trying:

Elsewhere in the bathroom tech universe, emerging technologies are tempting homeowners everywhere with the promise of sanitising, warming (and cooling), health-conscious solutions! Fairly new to the market, oftentimes underpinned by a hefty price tag, these technologies aren’t commonplace essentials… Yet!

Showerstoyou.co.uk asked homeowners which of these emerging technologies they’d most like to try in the future. Here’s the top 5:

  1. Sanitising bathroom accessories – 59%

Gadgets that use UV light to disinfect items like damp towels – leaving them fresh, fluffy and clean!

  1. Warming drawers – 52%

Think heated towel rack but in drawer form! The perfect place to store towels, robes and slippers.

  1. Fitbit Wi-Fi scales – 48%

An advanced set of scales, which track weight, lean mass, body fat and more – and sync data wirelessly and automatically to your Fitbit account!

  1. Virtual reality showers – 45%

This feature enables homeowners to project serene scenes – such as the beach, jungle or somewhere peaceful – within the washroom.

  1. Cooled cabinetry – 28%

Essentially refrigerated bathroom cabinets, which allow you to keep medicines cool (should you wish to), as well as store drinks!

 Credit https://www.showerstoyou.co.uk/

The Deep, Dark Woods

I write all sorts of things; flash fiction, poetry, short stories, novels… And these pieces of writing are in various genres; horror, romance, children’s, literary fiction, mystery… With over one hundred different projects, either completed or in process, I like to think that I’ve managed not to repeat myself when it comes to plot and characters.

I try not to anyway.

But there is one thing that I do mention a lot, and I’m completely aware of it. It’s not always intentional (although at times it is integral to the plot), but whether I mean it to be there at the start of a story or not, ‘the woods’ often pops up.

What do I mean? I mean actual, literal woods. Deep, dark places full of trees and animals and scary things. Or peaceful places full of beauty and clearings of dappled sunlight and twinkling, tinkling streams that lead on to adventure.

woods

I love to read about them. When I was younger, The Faraway Tree was one of my all-time favourites, and the two poems that are stuck on the wall by my writing desk are “The Listeners” by Walter de la Mare, and “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.

I love to write about them too. Sometimes my stories are set within the trees. My children’s horror entitled The Waldgeist of Wanderal Woods, focuses the entire story in the magical world below a lush, green, leafy canopy. Another of my short stories is called “The Woods Today”, and is about a rather nasty teddy bears picnic. And another, “Miles To Go” details the shock and confusion of a man who awakes naked in a snowy wood.

Equally, some of my stories just touch on the woods. In “Fairy Lights” the protagonists camp by the edge of a wood, not daring to enter. “One Man and His Dog” has the eponymous man looking towards the woods, but eventually going in the other direction. “Careful of the Castle” involves a woman sitting on a hot, sandy beach; but she wishes she was wandering through the shaded woods of her home town.

There is something so fascinating, so elemental, so mysterious and exciting about woods, inside or out, that I find myself drawn to them. Of course, it helps that I’ve lived near one for almost all of my life. Or rather, near a few of them. The very first house I can remember backed onto woodland. I have a distinct memory of playing in the garden, sitting on a swing that my dad made and which hung from a big old apple tree, and staring, hard, hard, harder, over the back fence and into the woods. I wanted to see something move. I never did, unless wind-waving leaves counted.

woods

A few years later we moved, and this time the garden was bigger, and at the bottom of this one was a large meadow on which horses roamed. That was nice. That was fine. But it was what was beyond the meadow, just on the horizon, that delighted me – a patch of trees that I was happy to call a wood. I even climbed over the back fence on a few occasions and ran across the field, dodging manure, to reach the trees. But fear of what (or whom?) I would find forced me back home. I never did go in.

And then I found a reason to go into the woods. The geocaching adventures I go on now mean that I have to enter the trees and I have to search amongst them. Now I love the woods even more.

Flash Fiction: Soft Snowflakes

Soft Snowflakes

Soft snowflakes began to fall. “How funny,” she thought, “that winter should come on the very day my heart began to melt.”

“How funny,” she thought, “that winter should come at all.” She pondered this as she sipped her warming wine and tried to ignore the hunger pangs that accompanied every swallow. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d eaten. Not today. Not even yesterday. The day before? Possibly. If that was the day she had left the hospital then definitely. But that could have been a week, a month, a year ago. It seemed to her that she had been sitting in this window seat waiting for the snowflakes, drinking wine and tucked up against the world for decades. For centuries. For eternity.  Little wonder, then, that she was feeling light-headed.

There was a sound, but she couldn’t place it. It was familiar, like a well-used door opening or a creaky stair being stepped on. A comforting sound. A safe sound. A loved sound. And that sound, and her knowing that she would soon hear it no longer, made her suddenly weep. She lowered her head to her raised knees and sobbed for the sadness of it all, for the unfairness. Her wine glass dropped, the red liquid cooling and spreading along the cushion she had re-upholstered herself in happier days.

snowflakes

The sound came again and she knew it through her grief. It was her husband’s key in the lock. Her melting heart, dwindling and dripping away, bit by bit, made an effort to pound harder, but failed. His key in the lock. It wasn’t possible, of course she knew that. She had left him, all those eons ago, dead from a heart attack. She had left him in the hospital, alone, and she had returned home, alone. And she was still there, and he was still there. Nothing had changed. But that sound…

She didn’t, as many would, rush to the door, fling it open and find nothing. She didn’t move at all. She reached down, picked up the almost empty bottle and refilled her glass. She watched the snow fall and listened as her heart melted.

81 Castle Drive, Kemsing

£399,000 

http://thegoodestateagent.co.uk/property/castle-drive-sevenoaks-tn15/ 

Kemsing is one of the loveliest villages in the Sevenoaks district. Quiet and unassuming, it has everything that anyone could possibly want; a great primary school (OFSTED rated good in 2017), a post office, local shops, close to the main transport links and yet tucked away in the Kent countryside. Step out of your front door in Kemsing and you will be greeted with village life, the chance to go for a refreshing walk across the Downs, and the kind of community that helps one another out.

Kemsing

So now that 81 Castle Drive is on the market, this could be your chance to become part of a true Kentish village with all the amenities you could ask for. As for the house, you can move right in and not have to lift a finger when it comes to refurbishment or redecoration; the current owners have cared for this property well in the 14 years they have lived there.

Castle Drive is a sought after location in Kemsing. Just off Childsbridge Lane which will take you to Seal and on to the M20, or Sevenoaks and the M25 or A21, yet still within walking distance of those wonderful walks we mentioned earlier, as well as the local shops which include a convenience store and takeaways, you are well placed to enjoy everything Kemsing has to offer.

81 Castle Drive itself is a three bedroom (two double and one single) semi-detached house built in 1950. It has been sensitively re-decorated by the current owners to become a bright, light, modern home which includes a large garage in the back garden for storage (or perhaps for use as a studio if that is what you need) and a conservatory, currently used as a utility area, but which would be a beautiful suntrap in the summer months.

The kitchen is well-equipped and it leads to the dining room to make family meals an easy task. From there you can enter the living area, which in turn leads out to the hallway and back to the kitchen. Upstairs are the three bedrooms (the master has a built in wardrobe) and a good sized family bathroom with a bath and shower over.

The back garden is a delight. It is a great size and has not only a lovely patio area, but also plenty of lawn and a decked area too. It’s ideal for entertaining, enjoying family time together, and it is easy to maintain.

The house also benefits from off street parking on a driveway to the front with room for two cars, and plenty of street parking (with no restrictions) if more is required.

Plus, there is no onward chain.

The property is marketed through The Good Estate Agent (Sevenoaks Area) who can be contacted on 01732 617066, or via www.thegoodestateagent.co.uk.

Property ref: 7730

4 Ways To Stop Your Children Being Bored This Summer

It’s really not many weeks now until the long summer holidays are upon us – your children (and possibly you) will be counting down to that last day of term with a huge amount of excitement and endless possibilities of the fun they can get up to flashing through their brains.

But, whether you have six, seven, or eight whole weeks of time away from school, not every day is going to be a fun one. There will be homework to do, chores to complete, not to mention the fact that going out all the time is both exhausting and expensive. So yes, there will be times when boredom creeps in, no matter what other plans you might have. In order to prevent this from happening as much as possible, or at least diminish the impact, here are some great ways to stop your children being bored this summer.

Build A Fort

Building forts out of furniture and bed sheets may have fallen out of fashion due to the plethora of tech that children have to play with these days, but there is nothing quite like the fun and giggles that building one can give you, so why not give it a try? If it makes a mess, does it really matter? Everything can be put back when the kids are finished enjoying themselves, and no harm will have been done.

children

They might want to turn it into a den for watching a film – another good distraction for a little while, allowing you time to do the housework, catch up on emails, or simply sit with them and have a rest – or colouring, or playing with their toys. You don’t need to spend any money to create it, and it will amuse them for hours.

Go Outside

If you’re lucky enough to have a garden at home, spending some time in it will do the children good, and they’ll even get some exercise (without realising it!) when they’re running after a ball or playing chasing games.

children

A paddling pool and some shade for hot days, a good imagination for all days, a few garden toys, and they’re all set. They can even invite friends over and not disturb you if they’re playing in the garden all day. Give them a picnic lunch and keep them topped up with drinks and that’s it.

Rearrange The Bedrooms

We’ll admit, at first glance this idea does sound like more of a chore than a fun thing to do to stop children being bored, but this is not just tidying up – this is complete reorganisation, and that can be exciting.

children

Try working out different ways to have the furniture in the room to maximise space or make it more comfortable. It might be that the bed is where it is because that’s where the removal company put it when you moved in, for example, but is there a better spot for it? This is hard work and should be planned out before any furniture is moved, but it can be a worthy thing to do.

Do Some Baking

Baking is always a fun thing to do, and since you end up with a sweet treat at the end of it, it’s even better. This can be messy – the younger the children the messier it tends to be – so be prepared for a tidy up session at the end (get the kids involved in that, too). This can be a fantastic bonding experience, and it will all start with choosing exactly what you are going to bake, shopping for the ingredients, and then putting it all together.

children

Check out this website for some great baking ideas.

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.