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Category: Thoughts
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.

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.

How To Choose A Good Contractor

Although working on your home yourself can be a great way to save money, not all the jobs that need doing are going to be possible for you to do; some take specialist skill or even qualifications in order to get right. When this is the case, you will need to seek out a good contractor, but this is sometimes harder than it might seem; there are lots of people out there all claiming to do a great job, but how can you choose the right one? Here are some great tips.

Ask For Recommendations

When it comes to finding a reliable contractor who is good at what they do, asking friends and family for recommendations is always a good place to start. No one is going to recommend someone who did a poor job, or who might not be trustworthy because they won’t want you to have a bad experience. Of course, you might not know anyone who has had the same work done as you want, so in that case you can always turn to online forums to get some names and advice on the right people to use.

Conduct Interviews

It’s essential that you pick the right person for the job, and for you – you need to be able to get on with whomever it is you choose because communication is going to be important if you want to make sure the job is done exactly how you want it to be. This is why conducting an interview (over the phone is fine, of course) to determine exactly how the contractor works and whether you even like them or not is important.

When you contact them, make sure you have a list of questions in front of you so that you don’t forget anything. This should be about the job itself (have they done anything similar, for example, and how long this kind of job normally takes) as well as about their company. You’ll need to know you’re dealing with someone legitimate, so take note of their company number and check they have insurance. Make sure they are fully compliant with data protection too.

Once you have all the answers you need, you will know who you want to come in and quote for you. This saves you time when it comes to being there for the contractor to assess the work and give you a price.

Look At Reviews

Before you commit to a contractor, take a look at their reviews and customer testimonials. These will give you the last piece of the puzzle when it comes to choosing the right person or company for you. Check out their website and read the testimonials there, of course (if they have any), but it’s far better to look further afield on review sites instead. The testimonials on the website are sure to be positive ones, and although they are probably accurate, what if there were many more negative ones around? It’s wise to check this out so that you at least know what to expect and, should you want to, you can avoid them entirely.

What To Consider Before Running For Public Office

Many business people and particularly, perhaps, business leaders, feel that running for political office has something attractive about it. Once they have done all they can do in their work life, it can often be that moving into politics is something that interest them, so they start a campaign and begin a new life. For some this works out wonderfully, but for others it isn’t so great and they soon realize that being in politics is not as ‘fun’ or as ‘easy’ as it might have seemed at first. It takes a lot of thought before moving in this direction, so here are some of the things that will need to be considered first.

You Will Need To Ask For Money

No matter what branch of politics you are choosing to go into, whether you are creating presidential slogans or you would prefer to do something a little more local, you are going to need money to do it. Politics is a surprisingly expensive business, which is why you will most often see those who have already made it in their professional lives (or those who were born into a wealthy family) running for political office – it is simply out of the reach for most ‘everyday’ people.

In order to be able to finance your campaign in such a way that it gets noticed, you will need to ask for money, and lots of it. Political campaigns that falter part way through because the money ran out will not be remembered fondly, if they are remembered at all. A politician who cannot budget and who spends unwisely is not going to be a particularly popular choice when it comes to picking a candidate at the polls.

It can be hard to be constantly asking for money, but it is essential that it is done. If this is not something you feel comfortable doing, you may need to look at another way to help the public because in politics you will need to ask for money time and time again.

Speak To Your Family

Although running for political office is an individual endeavor in some ways, it also needs a strong team to run the behind the scenes parts of the campaign. Some of those team members will need to be your family; they have to be on board if you are running for political office because, like it or not, they will become part of the campaign and they will be thrust into the public eye.

Although as a business leader you may have been able to and wanted to keep your personal life private, as a politician that will no longer hold true. Your opponents will be looking into your past to see if there is anything untoward there, and the press will most likely be doing the same. The more popular you are, the better you are doing in your campaign, the more digging will be done about you.

This is why it is important to speak with your family first to ensure that they understand what is probably going to happen and what might be required of them. If they aren’t happy with the idea you may need to reconsider whether your political office plan is worth risking your family over.

Be Ready For Hostility

Politics can be an ugly place to be and there is often hostility on both sides. It won’t matter how nice you are or what your intentions are, someone will also be against what you are doing. When you are running for office you need to be ready for the attacks against you that will come. If you believe in what you are doing and you are an eloquent person then you need to speak out and be strong. Not only will this wrongfoot your opponent (whether a political one or someone on the street) but it will also show others how strong your intentions are – sometimes someone else’s hostility can be what drives you on and makes you more popular.

Remember, never return hostility with hostility as that will solve nothing. It’s far better to be civil in the face of someone’s ire and anger and maintain a dignified stance as this will better enable you to put your point across and make sense to those who are listening.

Find A Good Lawyer

Having a good lawyer in side will be a useful addition to your team and can stop you from making mistakes when it comes to what you are and aren’t permitted to do during a political campaign – the rules are strict, and if you fall foul of them you might have to remove yourself from the race. This would mean your entire campaign had been a waste of time and money (and other people’s money) so no one wants that to happen. 

Be Prepared To Lose

No one is going to win all the time and in politics, although it is wise to keep a winning attitude, you should also be prepared to lose. If you look at the numbers, you’ll see that the majority of people lose when it comes to politics because there are very few positions open in the first place. That means that a huge percentage or those campaigning will walk away with nothing after the ballot, despite the good feeling created and the money spent.

If you do lose, you should have a plan in place for what you will do next with your life. It will depend on whether you felt that politics was something you desperately had to do, or whether you might now try something else. There should always be a plan, however, so that you are not left feeling low with nothing to do. It is easy to become emotionally invested in your campaign (in fact, it is expected) but this can mean problems when it is all over; you might feel depressed and deflated. So having a backup plan should you lose that means you can get on with the next thing right away will solve these issues and help you to feel better.

 

9 Reasons Debating Is Good For Kids

Many schools offer kids the chance to be on the debating team but not all of them want to take this opportunity up. However, if possible, parents should encourage their children to try debating because it has many fantastic benefits that can help the kids now and in the future. Here are some of the most important reasons why debating is good for kids and why they should at least try it to see if it is for them.

Debaters Win Arguments

It’s a simple fact that those who are good at debating will always win an argument. They will never let anyone get the better of them when discussing something because they will know exactly how to word their points, and how to research their opinion in the first place. It means that as adults in the workplace, they will never have to worry about trying to find the right words to explain what they mean and why – this can help them immensely during presentations, pitches, and other negotiations.

Debaters Don’t Mind Crowds

When debaters first begin, they are only arguing their point in front of the judge and the other team, or even just one opponent. As the competition progresses, there will be more and more people in the crowd and in the final there could be many thousands depending on what level you are debating. Everyone will want to see how you do and will want to watch you closely. This can be intimidating at first, but over time the children involved get used to it. This will help them hugely in the future because it means they will be used to pressure and be able to work – even thrive – when under it. Nothing will faze them.

Debaters Are Good Travelers

Traveling is all par for the course when you’re a good debater, and those who make it to the national levels will become extremely well practiced at traveling through airports and on coaches – they might even take the car. Whichever mode of transport they choose, those kids will turn into adults who are great travelers. They will be able to go anywhere at any point without fuss or worry, and they will probably know how to travel pretty light too with just a few clothes, their notes, and their team baseball caps, flags, and badges.

Debaters Have Fantastic Communication Skills

Arguing your point is one thing, and it’s obvious that debaters can do that, or they wouldn’t be much good at debating. However, communicating and speaking clearly is something entirely different – yet great debaters are able to do this as well. Speaking clearly and concisely is an important skill to learn; it enables others to always understand what you mean, and it denotes a sense of authority, professionalism, and intelligence. Mumbling quickly and not being understood is not going to help anyway, and yet that is exactly how many people who have not had the chance to be a debater do speak. It’s refreshing to find someone who can communicate clearly and this will help your child stand out from the crowd.

Debaters Have Great Memories

When in a debate the rounds are pretty fast paced and there isn’t a lot of time to get your point across. Therefore, a debater has to be an excellent memory in order to be able to put their argument forward and include all the relevant facts and details. Some people naturally do have amazing memories but others require some ‘brain training’ to get there. That’s where debating can help because the more it is done, the better at remembering those facts the child who is debating will be. In the future this skill will help them in their work progression.

Debaters Take Notes

Taking notes is something that all high school and college students will need to be able to do well in order to get the most out of their classes and do well in their examinations. It is also important at work when in a meeting or in an important phone call. It makes life a lot easier when good notes can be taken and lessons can be learned. Debaters need to be good at taking notes, a skill acquired with practice, because if they can’t remember everything (as mentioned above) they will need to have the information written down quickly and efficiently.

Debaters Are Empathetic

Debaters are excellent at looking at arguments from both viewpoints. After all, each debate topics has a pro and a con side to it, and it is only the flip of a coin (or similar) which determines what side your child will be arguing on. So they need to be able to see both sides of each debate because they could be asked to argue either way. Being able to do this and be empathetic to other people’s opinions, ideas, and situations will be useful for a child when they become an adult and have to interact with other people. It makes them kinder, more humble human beings.

Debaters Are Speed Readers

Speed reading is an essential skill for a good debater. They need to be able to find out as much as possible about their given topic in a short amount of time, so it will help them hugely if they can read quickly and accurately. This skill will also help when they get to college whether they are debating or not – they will be able to absorb all the information they need to know and digest it well enough before an exam that they not only know the facts but understand them as well.

Debaters Are Great At Teamwork

Debaters have to work alone when it comes to making their argument, but they also have to work as a team in order to win their rounds. In a debate team, you could be working with the same people for a number of years, so it’s important to be able to strategize with each of them, working out what their strengths are and using those against their opponents. Again, this is a skill that will be a wonderful advantage for the workplace where working in a team will certainly be part of most jobs.

4 Ways To Lose Your Confidence (And How To Get It Back)

Confidence… No one can be confident at all times, no matter what. Even those who seem totally self-assured will have moments of self-doubt, and it can happen for a variety of different reasons. Taking a knock when it comes to your confidence can really be an issue; no one wants to feel bad about themselves, after all. However, there are ways to get over these problems and get back to being a happy, productive, self-possessed person sooner than you might think. Here are some ways you can help yourself.

Judgemental People

lose confidence when judged

People do have a tendency to be judgemental; you’ve probably done it yourself without meaning to (perhaps without even realising it). Unfortunately, these slip ups can cause others to feel bad about themselves, and if you are the subject of someone’s judgement, your confidence can be sorely tested. It doesn’t matter whether you know the person or whether they’re a stranger in the street, the outcome is the same; you’ll go from being a happy person going about your business to someone who is now wondering whether you should just head home and hide.

There are three things you can do if someone makes a comment that you think is judgemental. The first is to take them to task about it, letting them know that their words have made you feel bad (after all, they may have been talking in the abstract and didn’t know that what they were saying would affect you). Next you can walk away and remove yourself from the situation. Finally you can just ignore them. These last two ideas will require you to also remind yourself how great you are in the process, of course, and that can take some practice.

Not Being Praised

If you’ve ever done something great at work or on a personal level, something that you were truly proud of, yet no one noticed or, if they did, they didn’t mention it or deem it praiseworthy, your confidence can take a serious knock. The problem is that it’s not ‘normal’ to ask for that praise either, for fear of being seen as needy or high maintenance, so even if we feel that we desperately deserve some kind of acknowledgment for the hard work we put into something, we can’t demand it.

What can be done? The best thing to do is to speak to the person you feel should be noticing what you’re doing, whether that’s a boss, a partner, or perhaps a parent. Take them to one side and ask them why your efforts haven’t been noticed, or what they think you can do to improve. If you don’t like the answer then it could be time to move on; after all, this is your life and you need to live it the way you see fit. Having all your confidence taken away from you will stop you from achieving the success you deserve if you leave it too late.

Clothes Shopping

confidence when shopping

Shopping for clothes can be a lot of fun, but it can also be something that seriously damages our self-esteem. Body image is something that many people struggle with, and taking a trip to buy clothes can make things worse rather than better. Take the advertisements that use models who have been airbrushed and changed completely – even though we know this is the case, it can still make us feel bad about ourselves. Then there are the mannequins and even though we understand these are not real people, there is a still a niggling worry that we just don’t measure up. Not only that, but as we’ve mentioned above people are judgemental (even when they don’t mean to be) and the fear that someone will say something or look at us askance is real. Add that to the fact that clothing comes up in different sizes in different shops, and there is a real issue at hand.

These issues can be overcome, however. Firstly, choose a shopping buddy. Take someone with you that you know well and trust implicitly. This makes the whole experience much more fun (you can make a day of it and stop for lunch and coffee too) and you can be sure that you can trust their honest opinion when they tell you clothing does or doesn’t suit you.

You can also make a plan before you leave the house and make sure you avoid any shops that have odd sizes or don’t do the size you need (or the style of clothing, come to that). This means doing research, but it will be worth it, making your trip a much happier experience. If you’re really unsure then stick with the shops you know and like – you’re sure to find a great outfit there without the worry of a new place to explore and be uncertain about.

Being Undermined

Being constantly undermined be someone is demoralising and can really chip away at our self-confidence. If this is happening to you at all, you need to speak up. This is a form of bullying and unless something is said it will just continue. Is someone always stealing your ideas at work? Does no one listen to your opinion at home? Does your ‘best friend’ only ever talk about themselves and dismiss anything you might have to say as irrelevant? These things can easily become a regular pattern of behaviour, eroding our confidence over time and leaving us to expect that this is how it has to be.

This is not how it has to be, and it is not how it should be, so talk to them about it and let them know you’re not happy. They may be completely self-absorbed and not realise what they are doing. They may, of course, be totally sure of what they are doing and these are the toxic people you need to stay away from. When you talk to them, pick somewhere neutral where you both feel comfortable and try not to point a finger right from the start. Find out why they do what they do and you might be able to move on.

8 Reasons To Visit Spain On Holiday

Picking a spot to visit for your summer holiday is never an easy task, but it is an exciting one. Looking through travel brochures, weighing up the pros and cons of each country, working out the budget, then finally booking – it’s all part of the experience. To give you a head start when it comes to working out where you want to go this summer, we’ve put together some great reasons why Spain should be your ultimate destination. Here they are.

Festivals

Spain has many different festivals and fiestas that span the entire year. No matter where you go or when, you’ll find there is some festival or other being prepared for. Some are more serious, like the ones you’ll come across during Holy Week, and some are more frivolous and fun, like the many food festivals across the country. Each festival is full of color and life, and is certainly something for you to remember for many years to come.

The Location

Spain really is its own country. Although part of Europe, it is often considered a little bit of an outsider due to its location; geographically it is a little more isolated from the rest of the continent. That means that although there is a lot of European culture in Spain, there is more solely Spanish culture. This is completely different to anywhere else you’re going to have a chance to visit, and even if you’ve been to many other European destinations, Spain will be something new which is a great reason to go there.

The Food

Spain is famous across the world for its food and for good reason. Paella is perhaps the most famous single dish, but you’ll discover that it is prepared different in each region (sometimes in each town or city). The basic ingredients of rice, stock, shrimp and prawns, and mussels tend to remain the same, but plenty more besides can be added. It is entirely possible to travel around Spain subsisting on paella alone – it wouldn’t become boring because there are so many variations.

Tapas Spain

Tapas is another famous Spanish cuisine. Tapas is not one food but a type of food made up of lots of small dishes that you can pick and choose and share. It’s a fun way to eat and it means you can try many different Spanish delicacies in one sitting.

Let’s not forget the drink either. Spanish wine has made quite a name for itself, but it is sangria which is most well known. Sangria is made from red wine (usually Spanish rioja) with fruit and it is a refreshing, delicious adult beverage.

So Many Cities

Spain is one country but by visit some of the many different cities across it you might be forgiven for thinking it is many smaller countries bundled together. That’s because each region in Spain is entirely distinct from the next, meaning you can travel from one end of the country to another and experience a multitude of different things. If you find that you have seen enough of one place, you can easily hop on a train and head off to another. Remember not to get too carried away though, as travelling can sometimes become expensive. The key is to set a budget before you leave.

The People

Although it might sound like something of a generalization of cliché, the Spanish people really are incredibly friendly. You can be confident in trying out the Spanish language, for example, because the Spanish people will appreciate your efforts even if you get it wrong! By the end of your holiday your confidence and your Spanish will be much greater than they were before you left home.

No matter where you go, whether it’s the beach, a museum, a café or bar, you will find someone who will be happy to talk to you about their country and culture. You’ll discover so much more this way and your vacation will be a much more fulfilling one. Lying on the beach for two weeks is fine (in fact, it’s good for you as long as you wear the right sun block), but mixing that with learning about the country you’re staying in is even better.

Flamenco Dancing

Flamenco in Spain

When you think of Spain, the famous flamenco dancers might be the image that comes to mind. All across Spain you’ll be able to find flamenco shows and it is definitely something you should experience. The proud woman with her fan and hair up on her head and her beautiful dress dancing passionately across the stage is a sight to be seen. There is a kind of contagious energy that comes with flamenco and once you start watching you won’t be able to draw your eyes away. 

Family Friendly

If you are looking for a family-friendly holiday to take the children on so that they can also experience new cultures and places, Spain is a great choice. This is not a country where it is frowned on for children to stay up late; in fact, the locals will enjoy seeing your kids having fun and it will be a refreshing break for the parents to be able to relax and let the children run (relatively) free. With great, fresh food, plenty of space to play, and wonderful beaches as well as museums and adventure theme parks and the like, your children will love Spain as much as you do.

The Climate

Spain sunshine

Spain has the same kinds of seasons as the UK which means when you travel in the summer you’re sure to get some great weather when you arrive in Spain. That’s not to say it never rains, but for most of your holiday you should have great sunshine and hot weather. If you’re looking for somewhere hot to relax and enjoy, Spain can be the ideal choice. When it gets too warm you can head back to your hotel for a siesta like the locals do, ready to enjoy the slightly cooler temperatures when you wake up.

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Blog Writing

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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.

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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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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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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.

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: