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27 Feb 2009

Endowment policies & crap advice!

Sent of an application to the Financial Ombudsman  earlier this week re my vastly underperforming endowment policy, they are snowed under, he said, so it'll be about 9 months before anything is looked at. It's thousands under what was 'promised'. I think it was promised with no inverted commas - I distinctly remember the girl who sold it us getting very excited about the huge cash surplus we were bound to get, and what we would spend it one, cars, holidays, and this sucked us in completely. However Legal & General say it wasn't promised at all, and that in fact, even though we were first time buyers who knew diddly squit about mortgages, we were fully capable, after a 45 minute meeting with an excitable young salesgirl, of understanding complex financial investments and could assess our own attitude to risk. Hmmmm. 
Just as interesting is the crap company Oasis who've 'helped' me with this claim so far....i.e. they have forwarded mail from L&G. No advice, no guidance, no expert help. To the point when they stopped helping at all and contact ceased about a month ago. Despite emails and calls, nothing, so I rang the FO and asked for the forms direct, set up a case, filled them in and sent them back. And then two days later Oasis sent the forms I'd been asking for for a month. Christ. I sent them back. Maybe if they'd have given me some proper help in the first bloody place, L&G wouldn't have rejected the initial claim and I wouldn't be going to the FO....

Employing the Poles; guilt or good sense?

Ok, bollocks to the non-working hand, no-one seems to know what's wrong with it, so I'll just carry on regardless. Having had a conversation with a friend whose sister is really poorly last night, my itchy hand pales into insignificance. 
Been on site this morning and Project Lennon and Project Cathedral are coming on a treat, took lots of pics. The Polish guys working on them both have done a good job so far. Reading all about the 'British jobs for British Workers' does make me feel a bit guilty, employing and paying foreign guys, though it's a mix of trades, and some guys I've used for years also work in with the Poles. I don't know, what do I do? I've had quotes from local firms and they are just bloody extortionate, guys wanting well over £200 per day, which just makes any project unviable. A lot of british builders have priced themselves out of the market, and often, in my opinion it's not their fault. To much red tape, too much bureaucracy, too much tax, legislation and pointless bleedin elf'n'safety has been piled onto the British workforce and firms and it's crippled them, they just aren't competitive anymore. 
My business has to survive, and if that means getting the best labour price for works, I have to do it. Everyone I know is shopping around for the best prices they can get. I bought a microwave from Ikea the other week, nearly £300 because the buggars do a special size for their kitchen carcasses. But then I did what I haven't always been bothered to do in the past few booming years, shopped around, and found a great deal, a small sized microwave from a at £120, stainless steel and fits perfectly. 
Maybe if we all hadn't been so quick to spend spend spend in the last ten years, we wouldn't be in the mess we are now....

26 Feb 2009

The downside of self employment

This is definitely the downside of being self-employed, can't take (paid) time off to sit in front of the tv, eat chocolate and do buggar all. Feel like shit, hands are killing me, had lots of blood tests today to see what this hideous finger thing is all about, lots of lesions and stuff on my hands, can't really pick anything up. One finger typing, oh joy. Fascinated by this cartoon finger, you know when you can see the pulse throbbing on a hammer hit finger on tom n jerry, that's what mine is like. so annoying. frustrating. infuriating. want. to. be. doing. something. can't. Can't even cook to take my mind off it, cause can't bloody pick up food / knife / pans. 

25 Feb 2009

Snood Lights - soon to be everywhere

I loved these new lights seen at Birminhgam, so innovative, and I'm sure they will be everywhere soon. 
They are available at Laura Ashley, I was told, though that may still be in the pipeline.
They are called Snood, and are magnetic, so if you have a whole load of boring halogen spots, and you fancy changing the mood of the room without great expense, just pop one of these up against the light fitting, and hey presto, its a makeover!

 "Michael, I'm telling you, oversized is a really hot trend this year!" " I dunno, Si, I'm not convinced, even though that lamp is 60ft high..."
Thank goodness he listens to me ;-) Birmingham Interiors 2009 was interesting, but certainly wasn't jam packed to the rafters with stunning new collections and over the top stands, it was clear the credit crunch had taken it's toll. Very little fabric and wallpaper, maybe they were sticking to Decorex. 
But there was still lots of inspiration and we did some great interviews with people like Piers from Designers Block. Will post pics.....

Project Lennon - the Revolting Bathroom

And the bank wonders why I need to refurbish this flat before I can rent it out?! The mint green suite just couldn't be more putrid really, that coupled with the black condensation mould growing freely up the grout lines..... I love it when tenants allow mould to fester, in fact I'm sure legislation will soon ensure that the UK will be much greener if we don't use any more cleaning products and just allow this stuff to blossom.
All was torn out late Jan, scheduled for a quick 8 week turn around; phwef and there's another one upstairs....

And now its the turn of the NHS..

So, I have a weird & slightly swollen finger for a few weeks, & maybe its a chilblain (had one on my toe at Xmas). But it doesn't get better, so go to the docs on Monday. Tell her it is v sore, itching, more are appearing on fingertips. GP gives it a fairly cursory look & says yup its a chilblain, have some anti-inflammatorys. £7.50. 
Other half not happy, go to NHS drop in centre. 1hr later, whoah, say the nurseman, thats a big infection, get down to the hospital. 2hrs later, na, says the doctor, its a chilblain, take a bit of Piriton, it'll be fine.
Two days later, can't touch anything, up all night, finger like a balloon, more lesions appearing on fingers, plus rash like chicken pox.
Back to docs. Jesus, he says, no way is that a chilblain, bad infection (er, could you tell your fellow GP in next room, I think, who said the total opposite on Monday??) two lots of antibiotics for you. And worse, no drinking alcohol!!!
You have to love the NHS.

24 Feb 2009

My MP is having a laugh. Surely?

Today I received this email, and I was in equal measures incredibly amused and horrified.....

"Re : Mr X, Old Tenancy at xxxx address (ie one of my rentals)
Dear Ms Astley
I am writing to you on behalf of my above named constituent, who lived in the above named property up to the 5th dec 2006, when he was arrested for growing cannabis in the loft and had to leave the property.
At the time, Mr x could not afford to pay for the damage done to the property and left a cello and a cine camera in your possession as insurance against his debts.
I understand that these events took place over 3 years ago, however my constituent would like a copy of the invoices for work done to rectify this damage, and whether you still had the cello and cine camera in your possession.
I look forward to your response.
Yours Sincerely 
John Leech MP"

You couldn't make it up could you? The guy wrecks my flat converting it into a skunk factory, then gets it ransacked by Manchester CID, gets sent down leaving unpaid rent..... and when he comes out, gets representation from our local Liberal MP..... priceless.

Fitting kitchen upstands

Project Ruby decided on upstands to match the kitchen laminate work surface, though i'd show you how they can be fitted yourself. The buggar of these was that there weren't 90 degree inside corners so I'd to fill them with brown sealant (perfect match). These upstands are generally mdf with a laminate coating, easy to cut with a chopsaw to get clean cuts and mitres (angled corners). Make sure all your bits fit together in your corners before you glue and add sealant!
These upstands mean you don't have to tile - messy and can look a bit old fashioned now, upstands are a bit more contemporary. Use a tube adhesive in a caulking gun to fix to wall, and run a line of clear sealant along the bottom so get a seal between the work surface and underside of the upstand. When adhesive is dry, run a line of clear sealant at the surface/upstand joint and remove excess (some people use a tool I use my forefinger).
Seal any gaps with white decorates caulk (and a wet finger!), and paint this caulk the same colour as the walls.

Travertine feature strip

Getting a bit bored with using travertine or the ceramic limestone look repeatedly (though clients ADORE it). Tried a bit of a feature in Project Ruby, and pleased with the outcome. Glass mosaics as a feature strip, these very same ones have been used in a Man United player's bathroom apparently, betcha he paid a tad more for them than I did.....

Release your media whore

Its always the way, you do the shoot, think the house (and you) look good, then they wrap up and go and you see a) the great dirty bloody mark on the wall / lettuce in your teeth and b) then start worrying about what you said, and how it will be quoted. So you await the printed article with a degree of trepidation. Just done a shoot, and now all of the above apply.
Met with builder to get quote on refurb of my house and the Golden Project, such a fabulous time to get anything built, labour cheap and materials plentiful, but no bleedin money from the bank!!
Ummed and ahhhed recently about paying £100 to join an 'experts' website, finally went for it and am impressed, got a call from a Telegraph journo and also from BBC Birmingham about a possible new show. Most of these calls come to nothing, the fickleness of the media, but you never know. I've been self employed since 1996, and this whole internet thang still amazes me, now, if you start a business, or are trying to promote yourself in any way, you HAVE to play the game and be an internet spod, go on release your inner media whore, you know you want to!