Guitar Strings for Lupus
I’m putting this out on Born again Swindonian on behalf of my friend and fellow business owner Sandra Trusty of the Fab Gift Boutique.
While The St Thomas’s Lupus Trust and their current fund raising initiative are not directly related to Swindon – Sandra and her business are – and with her sister being a lupus sufferer they have personal experience of the disease. Hence any opportunity to raise a little lupus awareness is not to be ignored.
So back in October, on her business blog, Sandra posted about lupus awareness month and the POP for October campaign: https://www.thefabgiftboutique.com/blog/popforlupus/
What is Lupus?
If you missed the previous blog post you can read it again here to find out more about lupus and its causes. But in very simple terms lupus is a disease that makes your immune system malfunction and become overactive. The disease can affect any organ in your body and displays a wide variety of symptoms that include fatigue, rashes, allergies, depression and kidney failure.
Strings for Lupus
With not a bum note in earshot the latest fund-raising scheme allows star-struck rock fans to get their hands on bracelets made from guitar strings twanged by legends of the British music industry.
This article on ‘Look to the stars.org’ explains more:
‘Guitarists are donating used strings from their guitars which will then be made into very cool bracelets and auctioned off to raise funds for the St. Thomas’ Lupus Trust.
The auctions will take place on a specific date and will run for ten days.
These are one off bracelets handcrafted to your specific size. If you would like to learn more about A&D Guitar String Bracelets you can visit their website here.’
Obviously there’s also information about this initiative on the St Thomas’ Lupus Trust website:
“This is exciting! Guitarists are donating used strings from their guitars, which will then be made into very cool bracelets (that suit males or females…) and auctioned off to raise funds for our lupus research.
The auctions will take place on our eBay page. We will also list the names of the guitarists and the date of their auction here and on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/StringsforLupus/?fref=ts
The auctions will take place on a specific date and will run for ten days. Once the auction has ended the highest bidder will have 3 working days to pay…”
The trust then goes on the thank A&D Guitar String Bracelets for creating this fantastic series of very special bracelets.
Our thanks go to everyone involved in getting this fabulous initiative off the ground.
To everyone that will be bidding in the auctions for bracelets borne of their particular rock hero’s music – we wish you good luck and thank you for supporting the research into lupus and the support given to its sufferers.
9th March 2016
Taking a new look at nutrition and weight control
“Eating crappy food isn’t a reward — it’s a punishment.”
― Drew Carey. Think about it …
I’ve been trying to get around to blogging about what follows for a couple of weeks now – but hey good things are worth weighting for – did y’see what I did there? Okay… I’ll get on with it.
So a couple of weeks ago I attended a talk put on by a couple of business buddies of mine, Julie Nicholls and Bonny Prim – both of whom have a different approach to the issue of diet/weight control that are, far from being at odds with each other, totally complementary to each other.
A brief bio of the two
UK college personal development logo
Bonny Prim: Bonny is a health and wellbeing coach. After years of Yo-Yo dieting Bonny was fortunate to find a supportive GP and then set about educating herself after hitting an all-time personal low.
Bonny is trained as a nutritionist specialising in weight loss and is an accredited Life Coach through the Association of Coaching.
Find her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Bonnyprimhealthcoach/?fref=ts and
Julie Nicholls: Since 1993 Julie has been helping people just like you to relax and feel well again. Julie is trained in both conventional (qualified nurse) and complementary therapies and counselling.
Having had some sessions with Julie I particularly like her unique approach to what she does. ‘Unique’ is a somewhat over-used word these days but in Julie’s case, in terms of her work, it’s entirely applicable and in its best sense too. Find out more about Julie and her business here: http://body-mind-coaching.co.uk/about-me/ She’s also on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/BMChealth/?fref=ts
And YouTubers out there – check out this: https://www.youtube.com/user/BodyMindCoachingJKN
About the talk
It would really take me hours to write about everything that was covered in this most interesting and informative session so I’ll just pick out some interesting snippets. If after that you want to know more then I’d urge you to speak to Bonny or Julie – depending on which approach most appeals to you – or even both as they’ve both got lots to offer.
They are both super fab ladies and are both are super knowledgeable.
Individually or between them they can help you unravel the unhelpful patterns that sabotage your attempts to eat sensibly and healthily. BUT: you have to WANT to make that change.
“…the reward centers of the brain–where the pleasure of those high-calorie foods registers–also respond to other substances that bring about pleasure….But those reward centers also respond to other gratifying things, like watching a sunset or experiencing a loving touch…So while you may not be able to change the wiring in your brain, you can “feed” those reward centers other pleasures…Biology isn’t destiny when you have effective strategies…”
― Bob Greene, The Life You Want: Get Motivated, Lose Weight, and Be Happy
- Did you know that many of us will ‘diet’ for something like 17 years of our lives, lose our entire bodyweight in the process – but mostly put it back on – and spend £53,000 across a lifetime?!
- ‘On a diet’ – worrying words
- Myth: spot reducing on certain parts of the body is NOT possible.
- Myth: The Paleo diet – no-one really knows what our ancestors ate.
- In many people the relationship they had/have with their mother can determine the healthiness – or otherwise – of their relationship with food.
Indeed I can give an example. And when I say ‘a friend’ – I mean a friend. 🙂 This person is a great comfort eater – not something I do at all. In fact if I’m upset or worried I’m more likely to go off my food. In conversation this friend commented that, as a child, when she fell over or was upset her mum would make her ‘feel better’ with sweets and cake etc. Consequently she now comfort eats and struggles with her weight.
And it’s that sort of sub-conscious behaviour that creates the self-sabotage referred to above.
- Most people with a healthy weight are not obsessed with either calories or food-types. They simply know the right foods to eat & in what quantities to maintain balanced levels.
- Repeating and endorsing Bonny – you have to deal with the underlying reasons behind what you eat and why you eat it.
Julie’s Eight top tips
- Change your language and your mindset and you can shed your surplus weight. Without the mindset change can lose the weight but then your mind may somehow seek it out again. A bit like if you lost your keys.
- Remember the 80/20 rule – the Pareto principle. Put another way: Focus on eating well/healthily 80% of the time and you don’t need to beat yourself up when it goes to pot or you have some treats for 20% of the time. The Pareto Principle applies to all areas of your life including exercise. If – for 20% of the time – you don’t exercise there’s no need to get all angst about it. That only causes the sort of stress that makes you want to eat more – but rather than filling your emotional tank it depletes it.
- Drink plenty. Dehydration will make you feel hungry.
- Take a 20 minute break between eating your main course and moving onto dessert. Your body needs time to know it’s been fed and feel full.
- Aim to have longer fasting times between meals.
- Fill any emotional ’emptiness’ with other pleasant things that aren’t food.
- Work on changing how you perceive yourself.
- Watch out for fat and sugar combined. In laboratory tests, rats given fat and sugar combined could not control the munchies and got fat. Yet – when fed either fat or sugar alone they only ate until they felt full and so didn’t get fat. The fat/sugar combination found in so many processed foods does not occur naturally. Thus our body and brains don’t recognise it as food and can’t ‘cope’ with it as they should.
Oh – and a final thought: If you can cut out or at least reduce saccharine and/or aspartame.
5th March 2016
Shopping locally – and the Tented Market Traders
The benefits of shopping locally
The benefits brought to our local economies by small businesses of every kind are well documented.
This excellent 2013 article by The Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/dec/06/shop-locally-small-business-saturday-seven-reasons) lists seven such benefits. It’s a message that underpins the Small Business Saturday movement. (https://www.smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com)
Number 1 on this list is this: “Research on spending by local authorities shows that for every £1 spent with a small or medium-sized business 63p stayed in the local economy, compared to 40p with a larger business.”
You have to ask yourself why a local council or local regeneration developer wouldn’t want that? Unless, as is indicated in the article quoted below, and as seen in many a TV cartoon, the pupils in their eyes have been usurped by £ signs.
The damage done by national chains and on-line mega stores in gaining market and pushing independent businesses to the brink and beyond is not restricted to Swindon or even to the UK. It’s a worldwide issue.
As this article from across the pond points out: “The disappearance of local businesses leaves a social and economic void that is palpable and real — even when it goes unmeasured. And a community’s quality of life changes in ways that macroeconomics is slow to measure, or ignores completely.”
(Content Source: http://www.amiba.net/benefits-local-business/)
I don’t think there’s any arguing with that really. Over there or over here – it’s equally applicable.
The same article then goes on to posit this: “Local officials often fall for the seductions and political appeal of national chains and may even use public funds or tax rebates to lure them. They’re baited with promises of jobs and tax revenue, but they often fail to consider the greater losses that occur when the local business base is undermined.”
Swindon’s tented market
And it’s really pretty hard not to feel that current moves to demolish Swindon’s tented market – a move that (with the situation as it is at the moment) will render a number of independent businesses minus premises, minus businesses and minus jobs – is not a result of just such a seduction and an attack of myopia of epic proportions on someone’s part.
Swindon already has the new Regent Circus development of cinema and national chain restaurants – and some units there are still empty. There’s also a new food court coming to the Brunel Centre. Not to mention the plans for Old Town and all the other restaurants the town already has.
How many Costa outlets does one town need?
Do we REALLY need more places offering the same old, same old homogenized fare – I hesitate to use the word ‘food’ because I’m not sure it is. These places don’t have chefs – they have assembly workers constructing this ‘fare’ to a formula and sticking it in a microwave. That’s not food – that’ simply fuel.
All of which, as interesting as it may be, is not even the main point.
The Vox Pop
If there’s one constant cry emanating from the people of Swindon it’s the lack of independent shops. Well – there are lots of reasons why that’s so and they aren’t necessarily unique to Swindon.
An outdated system of business rates is one. And it’s strangling high streets up and down the land. The Guardian again in 2014: “… said that the property tax is no longer fit for purpose, and called for it to be reviewed. Committee chairman Adrian Bailey said that business rates are among the single biggest threat to the survival of the high street.”
The rise and rise of online shopping is another. And, I won’t lie, I do sometimes wonder if some of those that shout the loudest about the number of pound shops in our towns don’t, when it comes to the crunch, eschew the independents and go for the bargain basement online warehouses. Well – y’pays your money and you takes your choice y’know?
Okay – we may not have chic boutiques and funky gift shops in Swindon. But we do have some great independent businesses of various kinds.
To highlight just a few of them we have:
Paolo’s, a wonderful independent Italian deli on Commercial Rd offering excellent wines, Italian olives and cheeses and fantastic coffee – among many other things.
There’s a wide range of independent coffee shops across the town. There’s the Polski Skleps and the fabulous offerings down Manchester Road. And then there are the traders in the tented market. All of them working hard to make a living and in some cases employing other people – and doing that brilliant and vital thing of keeping money in the local economy.
One such trader is Jo Heavens of the Emporium of Loveliness. Jo has been particularly vocal and active in the cause of saving the tented market. https://www.facebook.com/EmporiumLoveliness/?fref=ts
Or – and what’s more important to my mind – saving the livelihoods of the traders that currently operation in there. Because, as it is, they appear to be nowhere on anyone’s agenda – and that’s really quite shocking.
Eggelicious’ Ash Mistry holding a Tim Carroll painting of the Tented Market
Another is Ash Mistry of the very well known and successful Eggelicious – an establishment that does serve ‘food’ as opposed to fuel: slow food fast! Read more about Eggelicious here.
A building past its sell-by date
There’s really no escaping that the tented market is reaching the end of its useful life. It was built with a 25-year lifespan and it’s approaching that now.
Swindon’s number 1 fan that I am I can’t pretend that I’ve ever particularly cared for the structure. So, on a personal level, I have no issue with the basic notion of demolishing the wretched thing. HOWEVER – I do have an issue with a whole host of things surrounding this move to demolish it:
The way it’s been handled – by whoever it is that’s handling it:
The traders in the market were not given official notification of these plans – they found out about it on social media.
New traders were allowed to come in and spend THOUSANDS setting up their unit and their business in the full knowledge of these plans.
The traders are facing the demolition of their premises with no provision in place to relocate, to compensate or include them in the new plans.
As a result FORTY people will be put out of work. With no offering of suitable premises in the town centre the face the loss of their business.
Jo Heavens has additionally put forth an argument about the history of the market:
“…with the demolition of the market, this development would destroy the 757 year history of Swindon holding a market since 1259. Swindon was known formerly as Chipping Swindon (Market Swindon) and was granted a charter to hold a market by Charles 1 in 1626. This charter was transferred to the New Swindon Local Board in 1890 along with a plot of land sold by Major Rolleston subject to it being used for a market only. The traders are currently taking legal advice on this covenant land.”
That is all as it maybe. I don’t know and I make no comment on it.
For me personally what’s wrong on every level about this whole ‘thing’ is that – in simple terms – these plans will not only see the market demolished but people’s livelihoods too.
Ash Mistry of Eggelicious told me how, as someone who puts a lot into being a caring employer, distressed he is at the prospect of having to lose valued staff.
Like all the other traders in the market he agrees that the place is shabby and needs investment or rebuilding. And, like the other traders, he wants to be consulted and included.
He’s as frustrated as everyone by the lack of:
- Clear communications from the council – feeling very strongly that there needs to be much more of it.
- Offers of alternative sites in the town at a suitable rate/rent level
- The lack of suitable space in general for small businesses to get started in and to have the space to employ someone ‘properly’. By which he means be able to pay someone a decent wage – rather than being throttled by an out-moded business rates system.
I’ll conclude by returning to No 5 in The Guardian article –You can help build communities:
” Bookshops, cafes and craft shops often drum up custom by hosting events, from book groups to knitting clubs and children’s events. If the businesses are not supported, the local groups tend to disappear too.
Markets also often give space to community groups and social enterprises, says Ellie Gill, campaign manager at Love Your Local Market. “Markets can have a community value, as there is often a social purpose to stalls – they can be public spaces as well as retail outlets.”
A sentiment echoed in one of Jo Heaven’s communications on this issue:
“They have unanimously voted to be included in a revised plan for the site to include a market on the footprint of the site, with a smaller scale restaurant development and possibly flats above this.
Potentially themed market days such as Antiques and Vintage Fairs, Farmers Markets or table top sales could be held in a central area with the traders in units around the outside. This would add to the regeneration of the town centre and provide a unique indoor shopping experience that is not being offered by our neighbouring shopping towns. “
Swindon has already lost the battle with Bristol – with Cabot Circus & Cribbs Causeway. We can’t compete with that now so it’s time to move on and make Swindon different and build on its many strengths.
And a good place to start would be by working WITH the traders in the market rather than trying to obliterate them. As appears to be in intention. I’m not saying it IS – but it looks that way.
So the council, Forward Swindon or whoever the heck else it is needs to start thinking outside the box.
As my mother would have said: Buck your ideas up!
16th February 2016
The shifting sands of the 21st Century Workplace or:
‘Fings ‘Ain’t what they used to be
It’s unarguable that the landscape of the working world has undergone a seismic shift in recent years. The old days of one life-one job are long gone. Coupled with new pension rules and the extended working life facing the younger generations new ways of working and living are surfacing. The gold wrist watch or the mantelpiece carriage clock have ticked their last tock.
Indeed as an article in issue 53 of ipse (Inspiration for Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed) magazine argued, on this very topic: ‘full-time permanent contracts as characterized by the 1950s manufacturing-based economy are disappearing as career paths become multifaceted with the average working life encompassing periods as an employee, some years of self-employment and inevitably also times of unemployment.’
Or, put another way: ‘Fings ‘aint wot they used to be.
But it’s not only the younger generations having to come to terms with a new order. The baby-boomers (particularly those born post 1950) are also finding themselves sinking in economic quicksand – a factor that has contributed in no small way to:
The Rise of the Grey Entrepreneur
No longer simply silver surfers, the over-50s are diving headfirst into business ownership. Sometimes through choice but often through necessity.
For me personally it’s the latter. Compulsory early retirement when I was in my early 50s combined with the changes to state pension age forced me to rethink my life. So I went off to university as a full-time mature (very) student and got myself a joint English BA Hons degree. Now, pushing sixty, and with the skills and experience acquired from my degree I’m working hard to establish AA Editorial Services, my proofreading and writing business. Make no mistake – I absolutely love what I’m doing – but it is nevertheless a case of necessity being the mother of invention because I’ve been prevented from retiring by the new pension rules.
For others though, as this 2013 Guardian article explores, many ‘grey entrepreneurs’ are people already retired but who ‘swap sipping sangria in the sun’ because they are bored and miss the buzz of business and working life. While for others, similarly to me, their main motivation for starting a business is financial. As the article suggests: “New analysis of HMRC figures shows UK workers can expect to see their incomes plummet by more than a third when they reach retirement, while in some areas of the UK the fall is almost to a half.”
But of course it’s not only the over 50s that are responsible for the surge in self-employment numbers.
This January 2016 article from ipse cites figures reporting that: ‘the number of self-employed has risen by 98,000 in the three months leading up to November 2015, compared to the same period in 2014.’
The article goes on to posit that freelancing is no longer restricted to particular professions or age-groups with the self-employed now forming an established section of the labour market. It goes on to say:
“The self-employed are now a key part of the UK economy. Their flexibility provides us with a unique characteristic that has powered the UK through the financial crisis and may be the one thing that shelters the country from the potential global economic storm appearing on the horizon.”
So all hail the grey entrepreneur and the self-employed then.
We’ve already seen that the state of the economy is reshaping the workforce. And with that there’s been a re-moulding of where and how we work. And it’s called coworking.
If your image of business owners is that of someone holed up in their home office or renting space in a boring boxy business unit then think again.
Well there is that of course. And there’s also the digital nomad or laptop entrepreneur operating their business on a laptop in their local coffee shop, or, if they’re very fortunate, from a beach or poolside. Hmmm – so where am I going wrong then?
More than simple hot-desking and a step on from teleworking for someone else, coworking is defined by Wikepedia as: ‘a style of work that involves a shared working environment, often an office, and independent activity’. All of which sounds really rather dull. But clearly it’s not given the steady growth in such spaces both here in the UK and across the world.
As this article from Forbes.com explains: ‘Coworking spaces are melting pots of creativity … they generate a level of synergy that results from the proximity and collaboration of like-minded people.’ Which is a rather tortuous way of saying that such spaces give the self-employed somewhere to work in the company of others, do some unofficial networking, bounce ideas around and offer mutual support. And all in an environment far more inspiring than your local homogenized Starbucks.
As I touched on earlier, the freelancer can rent office space – both expensive and possibly unnecessary for most things or work from home. And it’s an environment that brings with it a whole heap of disadvantages and distractions. Alternatively there’s what ‘The Conversation.com’ refers to as ‘third places’ – your local coffee shop for example. Something also with its drawbacks – not withstanding the cost of coffee. Hence the notion of, and growth in, ‘coworking’.
I’m told there’s something in the region of 15,000 coworking spaces across the globe and that figure is steadily rising.
This article from Crunch lists seven of the UK’s most beautiful coworking spaces spread from Brighton to Edinburgh: https://www.crunch.co.uk/blog/startup-advice/2014/02/24/uks-most-beautiful-coworking-spaces/
Another one that I visited recently when attending an Enterprise Nation event is Bristol’s Desklodge. I didn’t get to see all of it – gutted to have missed the TARDIS area – but what I saw is certainly very fun and funky. Albeit a little reminiscient of IKEA with all the different room settings.
Coworking at the core of Swindon
And coming soon to Swindon (March 2016) we have Desk Cowork.
The brainchild of business owner Matt Greenwood, Desk Cowork is set to be literally at the core of Swindon business life being located in the upstairs room of The Core juice bar in Swindon’s Old Town and will be the first space of its kind in Swindon.
Matt knows from his own experience just how tricky it can be to work from home when setting up a new business yet be without the budget for renting office space. When living and working in Milan he used a coworking space there and that experience has inspired him to bring the facility to Swindon.
Matt has lots of plans for the space including yoga, social s and guest speakers. Read more about Desk Cowork here on Swindon 24.
Contact Desk Cowork here: email@example.com and find them on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/deskcowork/?fref=ts
So currently coworking, and its much-vaunted benefits, are riding the crest of a wave. But will it, as waves tend to do, eventually crash? Unsurprisingly it has its critics. Back to ‘theconversation.com’:
‘Coinciding as it does with the rise in self-employment, critics have objected to the lack of security, sometimes lower wages and benefits that freelancers who cowork have compared to their employed counterparts.’
All of which is true enough but there are upsides to the freelance world too.
The article goes on to suggest, and I think I’d agree, is that we should be careful about forming a judgement just yet. I’ll leave the last word with them. After all –it’s only conversation:
‘It’s an emerging concept and we still don’t fully understand people’s motivations for joining coworking spaces – both positive and negative – and whether they really do improve creativity and collaboration, or are just a lot of buzz over nothing.’
13th February 2016
Is outdoor decking a good home investment?
As homeowners thinking of doing any kind of upgrade/update to our home we are often faced with the dilemma of the potential return of investment (ROI) on our proposed home update against the initial cost.
In the eventuality of deciding to sell will our proposed shark fin sculpture embedded into the roof turn out to be an asset or a liability in terms of ROI?
While adding a decked area to our garden is unlikely to be as controversial as a shark fin in the roof the increase of decking in recent years makes the question of its ROI an interesting one.
Back in the early 2000s an article in The Telegraph suggested that decking was already becoming so much dead wood. But that prediction doesn’t appear to have been borne out. People are busier than ever and low-maintenance is where it’s at.
This 2014 blog from The Huffington Post argues the pros and cons for decking and patio.
The article states that, in 2014, Remodelling Magazine released a study ‘showing that the return on investment for a wooden deck is 87 percent, surpassing all indoor renovations.’
Additionally the article argues that, when it comes to costs, decks will always be the less expensive choice even when using high-end materials.
Of course it can’t be escaped that the lifespan of a wooden structure is never going to be as long as that of hard landscaping. But then on the plus side the lifespan of decking can is rapidly increasing with such options as composite materials and all-weather stains. Surely that can only be a good thing when it comes to ROI?
Certainly, as this article from Moneywise points out, a well-kept and designed garden is a huge plus point in terms of growing your garden’s value. So much so that it can be a deal breaker. Particularly for city properties: “In the city, if you have a tiny garden with a decking area and some seating and the space is well crafted, it will certainly be worth more than one up the road where nothing has been done…” Maybe as much as 5-10 percent more.
Moneywise say that a terrace is high on most people’s wish list so finding ways to step out onto a deck or patio is time and money well spent.
Indeed, as the Swindon Decking website points out a deck serves as a hub for social gatherings as well as being a low-maintenance solution for your garden.
To return to The Telegraph and its position on the adding value question they offer this: “Decking can add considerable value if, like a conservatory, it feels an integral and coherent part of the house. If it looks stuck-on and incongruous, it could prove a dubious asset…. Products with a long guarantee are likely to be an investment, but hang on to the certificate to show prospective buyers. Cheap, badly made decking will never add value, particularly if it has been poorly installed.”
Swindon Decking is a well-established Wiltshire-based company offering decking solutions for both domestic and corporate clients.
If you’re considering adding a decked area to your outdoor space you can visit their website or call them on 07711581665.
Swindon civic offices exterior
Last Sunday I popped along to the wedding fair held in Swindon’s Civic offices. This was the first time the registrars had put on such an event so I guess it was kinda appropriate that it should take place in February – the month associated with Valentine’s Day.
For some of my writings about the aforementioned February festival go here: http://www.aaedits.co.uk/blog/love-is-in-the-ether/ and here: http://www.indexwiltshire.co.uk/7477-2/
So why was I visiting a wedding fair? A good question! Well – two reasons as it happens. In the first instance to give some support to a friend who was exhibiting there with her Fab Gift Boutique business. And to find out more about that read here.
And here’s some photos of the Fab Gift Boutique Stand:
Then in the second instance I visited for the opportunity to have a nose around the civic offices – because they are all Art-Deco and amazing! I never did understand why the registry office used to be in Aspen House – surely a now-demolished building that isn’t lamented – when there was the lovely civic offices with a garden and everything!
Never mind – civil ceremonies are held there now and that’s the main thing. MUCH nicer.
And you know what? It was a very well done event – though TBH they had me with ‘hello’ and a glass fizz. So a massive well done to all concerned with the whole thing. There were lots of exhibitors and a fashion show and all sorts of splendid things actually. Certainly there was a good number of people coming through – a resounding success I’d say.
I was very taken with some of the earrings on this stand. Great fun!
The Earring Cabin
And here’s the lovely Louise of Wendy House flowers:
Louise of Wendy House Flowers
And a few more pics from around the place:
Chelsea courtyard garden
A ‘proper’ car
The Council Chamber
A toastmaster and his sword
It would be nice to think so.