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31 Mar 2009

Not a happy man; it must be love!

M's gripes......

A Its his day off and he hasn't even had time to shave

B Could the car be any more full, don't I know anything about a car's suspension and don't I even CARE about his car?

C Why do we never go anywhere else together but Ikea, B&Q and, er well, nowhere else really.

D The only place for me to squeeze into the car is haha right in his ear where I can chat about where all this stuff is going to go all the way down the M62.

Never mind all that Mills and Boon bollocks, this is true love ;-)

Project Lennon - Finished and tenant in!

Well, it's been an 8 week project, as planned, & the tenant moved today, she's an existing tenant who is up-sizing & moving from 1 flat to another. I'm really pleased with the studio it feels light & airy, & the high ceilings, new picture rail & revamped fireplace give it a sense of character and personality.

It's pretty unrecognisable....

There are still some bits to do, finish round the fireplace with oak beading and I'm debating mirroring over the red and damaged inset tiles in the fireplace.

The oak style flooring was good value, from Ikea, I have re-used a Klippan sofa which has been taking up room in my house forever (instead of spending money on a new one), both tables have been repainted in black gloss, and the mirror was an original pine monstrosity from Project Lennon which again had been repainted.

And when the tenant saw it, she gasped, and said, quote, wow, it feels like a real flat - which makes me think I need to do something to the one she was in......

29 Mar 2009

Tenants Deposits and Brucie Bonuses

What a dopey cow. It's a glorious sunny Sunday and I am not, unfortunately on my girlie weekend in Cheltenham (instead it will be a home game end May). Instead I'm heading over to find out how goes Project Cathedral where they are putting down the floor. It's in the 'sticker' rooms - see earlier post) and the guys are beavering away on a Sunday as the tenant wants to move in this week. Along with the other 6 in and outs of various tenants this week, jesus.
I don't know whether it's the CC, but lots of people are moving in, out, up, on, around; making big life decisions and addressing things in their lives which in 'happier' times maybe they wouldn't. Never had so many people moving out, and then filled so quickly.
Which makes the admin a complete nightmare, when fitting it in between designing flats, organising workmen and balancing finances, and a home! Not to mention the dreaded utility warehouse.
So kinda explains why the lovely Claire who moved out yesterday just got a text from me at 10am on a Sunday saying would she mind awfully transferring £438 back to me as I'd given her someone else's deposit amount instead of her £600 Doh! She texted back that wasn't it a Brucie Bonus for being such a good tenant. I may be a nice landlady but I'm not that bloody nice :-)

28 Mar 2009

OMG Annie Lennox is Victoria Wood

Annie Lennox or an alien

When I fell for this woman, years back, dressed in a sharp suit, with orange hair, looking like a sexy androgynous creature from another planet with a voice from another galaxy, never in my wildest nightmares could I have imagined that she would turn into a vision of BHS pastel sequinned squareness, with flappy arms, saggy pants and hammed up over-acting to every previously loved song. Bloody hell, Annie, get some bleedin advice on how to be a new millenium Diva, cause this Ethel Austin does Xmas impersonation of The Eurythmics has killed me. And what's with all the woooo wapp di wap wap arm waving??! And the shite backing singers and clearly shipped in audience? AWFUL. I wanted do dive into your ocean, really i did, but it was a bit of a 'take me as I am, I don't need advice, I am Annie, my voice isn't as good as it was but I don't have to up my game in any other way' performance.

26 Mar 2009

Quite possibly the most depressing but funniest email I will receive this year - Secret Millionaire

Anyone, anyone, anyone who is involved with property in any way shape or form is suffering at the moment, unless they are one of the incredibly rare people with cash in their pocket, maybe they sold a portfolio just before the markets seized up, or have owned property for years and years and have a very low LTV. The vast majority of people and companies I know - ranging from small developers / landlords fighting to keep profitable and finish off stuff they have started now finance has dried up and the rental market is up and down like a tarts knickers; to large companies whose chairmen once spent thousands on interior design and now send Mrs Chairman down to M&S with a strict budget - are not just tightening their belts, they are putting extra holes in with desktop hole punches.
Me included.
So I was tickled, amused and, in equal measures, depressed when this dropped into my in box today. Its past 10pm, and I am beavering away in the attic on paperwork, worrying about every penny........ and the, I am sure, lovely Anna Brent from RDF Media has the perfect opportunity for me. Hang on Anna, I'll just give the IBS a call and ask for  a couple hundred thousand to give away, I fancy having a go at being a philanthropist. Or maybe after reading this invitation, which is so far from being possible right now, I fancy just being 'pist..............

Dear Sian

I hope you are well.

I am writing to you on behalf of RDF Television from the award-winning and critically acclaimed documentary series about philanthropy that we produce for Channel 4. After three hugely successful series, we are now looking for people with the means to take part in the next hit series which will transmit next year.

We are currently contacting successful people from a variety of sectors including business owners, entrepreneurs and senior management. Having read about your success and seen the article in the Didsbury Magazine, I thought I would get in touch to see if you may like to consider being a potential benefactor as we are particularly keen to speak to women.

To give you some more information about the series, in each episode a different benefactor is given the opportunity to live ‘undercover’ in some of the UK’s most deprived areas. They do not reveal their full identity, and immerse themselves in the community for ten days; meeting the local residents, making new friends, taking on jobs or doing voluntary work - all with a view to deciding who they believe is most in need of their support. At the end of their visit, these modern day philanthropists reveal their true identities to those they’d like to help and offer their time, their skills and their financial assistance to help make a positive change to people’s circumstances.

This programme offers philanthropists a rare opportunity to actually meet the people that directly benefit from their assistance. It also allows our benefactors to highlight and explore specific social issues that may be close to their heart.

This project would require 10 consecutive days out of your schedule between now and the end of August.

Should you have any questions please do contact me on 0207 013 4395 or by e-mail of course. If you aren’t familiar with the series, I’d be more than happy to send you some previous episodes to watch.

I have attached an information sheet about the programme, some press quotes and testimonials from benefactors who have previously taken part. You can also watch clips of the previous series on the Channel 4 website - and the latest series is broadcasting now on Sunday evenings at 9pm.

I very much hope that you will be excited by the possibilities this programme offers.

Kind regards

Anna Brent

Too stressed for words

Totally boring day in Hope with the Daily Mail, last week's National Enquirer and the rheumatologist eventually refusing to do a biopsy until the blood results come back. And telling me all about Lyme like an expert even though he kept calling it Lymes Disease. Gives you such faith. But he did ask me to come back for an echogram and 24hr scan thingy as apparently I have a heart murmur. M was just surprised that they'd found one. Heart not murmur. I was just pleased to be out for The Apprentice, though the first ep was a bit lame, didn't the bootee have a very odd squashed up face? Anyhow.
Not feeling up to work, so went to watch C's school team play at a tournament up at Blackburn Rovers, but they are nice boys, far too nice for the terrier roughness of 5-a-side, and the ragmuffin City side won (very scary parents, boys likely to turn out much the same, hard to tell men from women, most had teeth missing).
Ordered furniture from Coach House then spent 2hrs stressing that I had spent too much, and should have gone to Ikea. 
Still no sign of loan from IBS. 
700 trillion emails to go through. 
All contracts to do. Still.
Still opening post from 2 weeks ago.
Oh god.

25 Mar 2009

Loving the breakdown and pink kitchens

Despite having a million things to do today, I agreed with M it was important to get these lesions biopsied, so was about to head off to hospital with him after the school run..... and the car has broken down. I think someone up there is smiling at me, allowing me this extra 2 hrs to get contracts and paperwork etc done just in case they keep me in, never have I been so pleased to be able to do office work.
Quick browse on, and loved this pink kitchen post from ellis1711, agree with her B&Q's coloured glass tiles are extortionate and suggested getting clear toughened panels made and painting behind, much cheaper and you can change the colour when you get bored of pink!

24 Mar 2009

Merv King holding back - fiscal stimulus Mr Brown?

Where the bloody hell does Gordon Brown think all the money comes from for his ridiculous notions of increased fiscal stimulus for god's sake?? from bloody tax payers who have been squeezed dry from years of hidden taxation, badly thought out tax policies, and overspending and wasting public money. Why can't we go back to giving out tax payers money to those who deserve it, not those who can work the 'system'. Everyone who claim benefits should be made to work for their payments, simple system - so every street, every estate, every public area can be revamped, revitalised and reinvigorated by the very people who either pay for them or use them i.e. everybody. Is that a hard concept to get your head round? If people felt like they had a vested interest in the success of this country instead of being so far bloody removed from it that it's failure also becomes nothing to do with them either, maybe we wouldn't be in the mess we are in.

Leek and tallegio rissotto

Slightly depressed by my GP's admission that in 25yrs he had never met a patient with Lyme, we needed comfort food in my house. This was found in Nigel Slater's Leek & Tallegio Rissotto, M had a coronary at the price of the cheese (needed 225g, asked him to get 300g - £5.40, he was still sputtering an hour later). Utterly delicious, forgot the garlic, splashed in some extra vermouth, and served with tarragon marinated chicken.
I spoke to the kids about maybe having to go into hospital; A (16) thinks it's par for the course as I am a walking medical disaster area, C (10) is very worried. He's a sensitive soul, wanted to know if it was like cancer, what do you say to that? We spoke about it for ages, and he's so very perceptive, wanted to know if I was worried, then he could gauge how he should feel too. A conversation about bacteria, virus's and other medical sturf ensued; thank god for google. 


Oh I am hoping it's not true. Previously baffled by my startling array of weird and wonderful symptoms, a friend's friend (who is a bit of a medical whizz - Louise!) heard the symptoms and suggested Lyme Disease. Having read up on it, and been to the GP and suggested the diagnostic test, I am now (eagerly??) awaiting the result.  
If it's positive, I am crapping myself, as I have about a million tenants moving in and out over this next few weeks, a flat to finish, a clients house to finish, plus an office full of paperwork, and a potential visit to Crete. Bollocks! Life is sent to try us, isn't it. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger? And all that crap ;-)

23 Mar 2009

Coach House

Back in January Homesmine did some filming at Birmingham Interiors, which was fab. Not as ott as previous years, pared down for the economic tightening of belts, but interesting and inspirational nonetheless. One stand I found myself wandering round stood out more than most, a company i've never heard of called Coach House, and I was stunned to find they were based in Accrington. I'm from that area, and their lights have been well and truly hidden under the Lancashire bushel, no-one I know had ever heard of them. And they are massive! 
The stand was gorgeous, full of fabulous room sets, stylishly decorated and rammed with all sorts of goodies.
Anyway, I finally found time on Friday to go up there for a quick hour at the end of the day, and found an Aladdins Cave of treats to furnish Projects Lennon and Cathedral. I haven't been doing much physical stuff due to the mysterious hand problems I have (now thought to be Lyme Disease urghh sounds hideous tests tmw) , but all their stuff comes ready assembled and ready to go. Just need to whittle down my choices now, but the black velvet chesterfield is a definite on the list!

Bread machines?? update

Try putting the paddle in to mix it up first. This helps a lot. I blame the loss of the instruction manual rather than own lack of brain cells.

Utility warehouse - Don't bloody do it!!!

When this was first sold to me it sounded like a dream - get paid every time your tenants use gas or electric, make profit on their usage, whilst keeping bills low for them as UW's rates are so competitive?? No brainer.
What a bloody nightmare they are. Their systems are entirely geared up for the standard owner occupier, the home owner looking to save a few pennies, NOT for the landlord looking to make his or her life easier. The change over has cost hours and hours sorting out bills that are simply wrong, with no reason or apology. They take money out of your account without permission and when you take cancel the DD, take it from credit cards! They charge a standing charge when properties are empty even if there is no useage, creating more paperwork and costing money for no service. The bill monthly, creating more paperwork for no reward. They are incapable of updating accounts at any other time than at the end of the month. They do not pay you unless you sign up a new customer every month. 
Utter nightmare.
Don't even think about it!!

Bread machines??

I hate supermarkets. (Except Waitrose). All they do is tempt you to buy loads of crap you don't need at vastly inflated prices. I made a pact with myself to never do a 'weekly shop' again about four years ago, and whilst still using them occasionally, mostly go to Andy, my local butcher, or a little fruit n veg shop in Withington. Chorlton is the best for food shopping, Unicorn, Into the Blue, Barbarkan, but its a trek for someone with no time. I distinctly remember shopping when young at lots of little places, and knowing all the owners and them chatting to me as a child. Not spotty teenagers with an attitude and assistants who seen once disappear never to be seen again. And the former is a nice way to shop. Tough, sometimes, with a busy life, but possible once you've made the decision. I digress. With some 'points' from some ridiculous 'reward' system a few years ago I obtained a bread machine which has never been used. Today, a very early 7am start (I don't do mornings), combined with a packet of bread mix which has been peeking out at me for the past 6 months from behind the tagliatelli jar, saw the aforementioned bread machine unearthed and christened. Are they supposed to just shake gently? Can't find the instructions now, surprise surprise, so have just poured the mix and water in together and turned it on. Though about adding something interesting, like sundried toms / walnuts but figured best to get this first boring one right then experiment. Roll on 11am....

22 Mar 2009

Project Lennon on Mothers Day

Despite not being able to hold a knife and fork at the moment, and having to wear gloves permanently (a bit like the queen?!), Project Lennon now boasts a super shiny gloss black sideboard and oak wardrobes 'n' bookcases. Dangerous Dave managed to paint so badly (as usual) his painting skills were soon surplus to requirements, but he did manage to rip up some cardboard (highly skilled labour for him, I remain astonished that he used to work at British Aerospace and had anything at all to do with large things which fly). M rocked on with the flatpacking. Mother's Day today. Hmmmm. Still amused at the moment as was told by Medusa (the ex-wife) by letter last week that I haven't a maternal bone in my body. So whilst doing a load of sports washing and prepping kids meals for next week, I pinched myself to see if I could find one.....

21 Mar 2009

Stick em up Saturday

Spent the day signing up a new tenant, and also on a(nother) trip to Ikea. God bless it when you need to furnish a rental flat, and never ending supply of affordable, decent quality and likeable flat fillers. I Love It. Can't stand Ashton, worship Warrington, can find my way round the place blindfolded. And wonderfully it was quiet today, due to the impending Mothers Day tmw (everyone was in M&S fighting over the meal deal salmon for your mum offers, clearly).
Project Lennon is ready to furnish, oak floor is down, and I managed to get all the main furniture and shelving etc (but not the sofa which is coming from Coach House - more on that later)..... then got totally distracted by stickers. Project Cathedral had the perfect wall, and with a monochrome theme already going on, and a floral splashback in place, it was Saturday sticker city. 
Slatthult at Ikea £9.78 per pack, took 4 for a wall this size

No more boring beige sofas

These fabulous settees were all showcased at Birmingham Interiors this years, and I find myself inspired. I am banishing beige sofas from my life, well, at least for a while anyhow. It's hard to find such amazing sofas for affordable prices for my rental flats, but I am determined not to focus whole rooms around bloody beige furniture!
Best of this bunch has to be the Timorous Beasties fabric unexpectedly finding itself wrapped around the back of this rather funky little two seater. 

18 Mar 2009

Don't harm your squirrel (oooerrr missus)

I love the wildlife in my garden, and living ten minutes from Manchester city centre, that's no mean feat... to have wildlife that is, not to love living in Manchester. The foxes get crunchy bones fresh from the local butchers, the goldfinches get niger seeds, my varied and cheeky tits get all the seeds they can manage, and the squirrels got peanuts. Any problem there you can see? No, me neither. Until my favourite squirrel, an old girl who pops into the kitchen on occasion when she fancies a cashew, suddenly went bald. Big stripes, utterly hairless, awful. Last year we had a fox with mange who lost all his hair, and I'd to treat him using homeopathic medicines every night for 3 weeks (pills tucked in burgers and drops on jam sandwiches - no mean feat in the manchester rain)> So was that the option? Well, after trawling the net to find something on squirrel hair loss (no I couldn't quite believe I was doing it either), I found the amazing Clarissa Summers, the queen of rescuing baby sqidgies and  hand rearing them. 
And she tells me.......... it's the bloody peanuts!!!!! Excessive peanut eating can give squirrels alopecia. How guilty did I feel? She had gorged on the peanut feeder none stop. So it was swiftly moved, well out of the way, and I followed Clarissa's advice of feeding my squidgie walnuts, hazelnuts and cashews, which she'll take from my hand. And low and behold, all the fur is growing back two weeks later. I know most people don't really like them, but her site is a revelation, squirrels don't get fleas or bite humans, and well, I think Clarissa is a superstar. World No1 expert!!!!
Contact her on:

17 Mar 2009

Project Tim

This flat had to be radically altered on a tight budget, around £1000; new carpet, lick of paint, new furniture (Ikea), and the pics show it definitely can be done. 

Dulux - what would you change?

Had to chuckle at the latest Dulux advert with a model starting to cry then the tears drying up after she'd painted her house / wall / life yellow, with the strap line waht would you change?
I'd change the fact that I keep buying paint from Dulux trade centres and the paint in the tins isn't the same as either the sample pots or the names specified. And they are so snotty about their own mistakes, really quite funny if not so time wastingly irritating. Moral of the tale, far better, and cheaper to get your Dulux paint from B&Q, or your tears won't dry quite so fast as their tv model's....

Typical landlady day

So, one lot of tenants have moved out (due to split of relationship - I am debating getting couples to do a compatability test before allowing them to live in one of my flats cause twentysomethings are always bleeding splitting up), and the sound travel has always been appalling between that flat and the one above. It was supposed to have been insulated between the joists by the builders but I suspect when we go in today and take down a bit of the ceiling to check, we will find air as opposed to rockwool. So a false ceiling is the order of the day, with kingspan filling the gap between the battens and possibly insulated plasterboard as well. Pain in the arse.
Another flat is coming empty end March, tenant lost his job and can't find another one, so he's off to London. It's cheap so should go quickly, but is also tiny so no-one over 5'5" can live there without discomfort :-)
And yet another one empty 11 April, the tenant has been in for 3 years so it'll need a bit of an overhaul to bring it up to scratch. She's moving in with her sister to save on costs or save up I guess.
It's a bit of a worry when a few flats come empty, all of a sudden the income drops, and in this competitive market, they've got to be great to let. Better position than Saturday, when there were 6 available, cause 3 went in one day, I was up and down the stairs like a maniac. Have all the paperwork to do now for the 3 new lots of tenants, who are all very excited at moving into their new pads. Very dull, paperwork. Not a fun as shopping for new stuff to furnish the flats, in any way, shape or form. Think I may put it off til this afternoon.

16 Mar 2009

Project Bishop - grotty communal area

Project Bishop is to revitalise a communal area for a building of 60 flats, which wasn't exactly exciting in the first place, and has got steadily more battered in the 7yrs since it was built; an old blue carpet, marked walls and uninspired decor. Marcin and the boys are busy getting on with my redesign and though it's not repainted yet, it's looking tonnes better, with favourable comments from the tenants. There was already a solid floor so it was relatively easy to tile with natural slate, which has then been sealed with a colour enhancer and gloss finish. In the next couple of days it'll be repainted and plants brought in, making it a hallway for the residents to notice and be proud of. I believe if you create better environments, people do have respect for them, and take better care.... here's hoping eh!

12 Mar 2009

Rose Cottage

A friend's offer on a lovely 200yr old cottage has just been accepted - she may well be the only person buying a house in the Greater Manchester area this year?!
It needs A LOT of work, no central heating, riddled with damp, a kitchen which doesn't deserve that description - all in all in need of oodles of tlc.
Her style is shabby chic, vintage cool, and I saw these images in this months Elle, wonder if she'll like them? This cottage could be beyond gorgeous, moregeous in fact ;-)

11 Mar 2009

Quick landlord makeover

A swift and cost effective makeover was required for this one bed flat, in a great location and a good size apartment, but it was just not able to get itself a tenant, because it just looked a bit tired and unloved! A few well chosen accessories later (which were not left for the tenant but used in the next revamp), and it let to the first viewer.
A tip for landlords - keep a box of accessories ready for when tenants move out and use the same scheme to dress all your properties: red or cobalt blues work well with neutrals, as neutrals can be terminally boring if not accessorised.....

10 Mar 2009

Feature for magazine

I's vital if you are renovating, developing or redesigning to get good 'before' pictures for every room, and from different angles. You never know when they will come in handy - to show clients, to show the bank if you are looking at financing and they want to see what you can do, to get magazine articles placed.. etc.
A journalist I know is looking to do a kitchen article so her photographer came to do some spec shots yesterday at a client's house I've redesigned. If I hadn't had before shots, they wouldn't have been able to even consider it....

A weekend with the Oldies

Its been a bit of a nonstarter as weekends go, spent it in Hope Hospital as the NHS tried to decide amongst themselves what exactly was causing my hands / knuckles to sell to three times their original size. Several docs, registrars, a dermatologist and a rheumatologist later, er, no diagnosis. Lupus was the closest guess, and some kind of auto immune weird thing. They are running tests and sick of Red, Elle, Now, Heat and Grazia, I begged to leave. It was amusing that they have asked for the pics of my hands as they haven't seen anything like it before and when it's finally diagnosed, they was to try and write up an article on a medical journal. Fame at last haha
They told me to take it easy.... fat chance!

5 Mar 2009

Sold As Seen

I bloody hate this phrase. 
Two things I've bought in recent months. The first: a microwave and steel surround from John Lewis, Cheadle, where the saleslady SWORE that it was perfect, and it was all bubble wrapped so she was reluctant to unwrap it, so I bought it and took it to the clients house. Opened it to fit it 8 weeks later, and it was scratched to buggary. Took it back to JL and they've told me to, effectively, get stuffed. Very naughty. And the customer service woman was adamant it was my own fault, as it was 'sold as seen', even though the sales woman told her she'd told me it was perfect. Hmmmmm.
The second: B&Q, a Zone shower cubicle, less than half price, on clearance, and again I asked if all the bits were in the box, and was told Yes. Opened it up today, and, put it this way, it would have been easier to list the 4 bits we did have as opposed to the 33 bits that were missing :-) Trying to figure out what was missing in broken Polish was irritating enough (major downside of Polish workers), but Kerrie at B&Q Stockport could not have been more helpful, what an absolute star, could have kissed her. She sorted it, fixed it, rang me back, god loves DIY staff like Kerrie, I love DIY staff like Kerrie.
And she isn't even a 'partner' in the business like at John Lewis. I know where I'd pick to take my sold as seen business in the future!

4 Mar 2009


My hands are killing me still today, itching, and loads of those blister things, it's crap not knowing what they are. Didn't sleep well at all, hands on fire. Even had to get one of the lads in B&Q to lift a tub of paint into the boot of my car, granted it was a 15L one, but still, embarrassing.
Back and forth to Project Cathedral taking grout etc; looks fab fab fab. Kitchen almost in now, bathroom be in by tomorrow.
Racing around to get materials for Bishops Corner. Have to go though finances for Goulden, quite excited about that finally getting built after 4 years. The architects won't believe it, I think they think I've given up on it. I still bloody might have to if no-one will finance it, depends what the end value is.
Want to go and paint at Project Lennon tonight, but can't cause of hands, damnit, how frustrating.

Palette; Bishops Corner

    Dark Stone
    Vanilla White
  30 x 30 Natural slate tiles

New job at Bishops Corner

It never ceases to amaze how little thought goes into the vast majority of new build apartment schemes' communal areas. We're not talking Candy&Candy here, obviously, but the regular schemes built in cities all over the UK where ordinary people rent, or own and live. There is no excuse with a new build, a little pre-planning would make all the difference, but developers want to spend as little as humanly possible in these areas cause there's no return from the outlay - no-one buys the communal area so there are no £'s per square foot. I think it's the opposite, the return comes from people enjoying living there any staying, landlords finding it easier to rent out a flat in a building with a lovely communal area, so buying more from the same developer, but hey ho, what do I know.
Delighted to win a contract at a block called Bishops Corner today, see pictures for befores, bit grim huh! Planning a slate and stone palette, repainting walls, creating a plant box and just generally bringing a rather tired space back to life..... well, that's the plan anyway!

Bloody Dulux

Traditional wisdom says if you buy at trade, you get a better discount.... er, not with Dulux! How crazy? The staff at my local Dulux Trade Centre in Stockport are just lovely and couldn't be more helpful, but their ICI back up sucks. Not only do they constantly get the colour mixes wrong (then deny any accountability) but their prices are considerably higher than B&Q. 
It's my own fault for not checking the prices sooner, but I guess with being horrendously busy all the time, these things slide, and suppliers benefit when you don't check prices. Their 5L Diamond Matt is £39 plus vat compared to the Endurance range Dulux sell thru B&Q. They would say the trade is thicker, but you can't water it down anyway, so whats the difference?!
It's like they want their own Trade Centres to go out of business, weirdos.

2 Mar 2009

Walnut /Zebrano worktops

I just can't seem to get my head around the whole "I'm a landlord therefore I should not spend any extra time and effort on the interiors of flats I rent out"
Me, I think boring places are tougher to rent out. If a place has style and a cool decor, it stands to reason it's going to be easier to get a tenant. Do renters not read Elle Decor?! Course they do!
As a result of this some would say rather foolish preoccupation with rental nirvana, I spent a large part of today searching for the perfect  worktop for a monochrome kitchen for Project Cathedral. White high gloss units from Ikea on steel legs, black high gloss polished tiles, and a fab splashback called Magnolia from Caple. Well, it's fab, but it also makes the choice of worktop really bloody difficult. 
Finally decided on walnut, as Project Cathedral has high white ceilings into the roof void so a dark floor will look stunning, and the kitchen is part of the large living area. Most I found were crap. Dull, characterless, lacking any warmth (a bit is needed in a monochrome kitchen, unless you are an architect :-)) and not remotely resembling wood.

But these, by Durpoal, I liked, having physically taken the samples and compared them to lots of others. These three all have upstands and splashbacks to match. Get an account with one of the suppliers on the web-site, and they deliver, prices circa £90 per 4m length.
Loved the Tuscan Olive and Ikebana (the bottom two) but decided the splashback needed something plainer, so went for the Walnut Woodblock mix. 

RBS woes

Well, this should be interesting, a half hour Panorama programme on the RBS. They've been a nightmare to deal with for three years, a bank which was supposed to support and help, but instead has been obstructive, changing the goalposts and being utterly the wrong choice for my business, and god knows how many other peoples', in the past and right now.
It's funny, they are talking about the FSA now. I was told by a friend who works in the City that it's widely known, and a source of much amusement to those in the world of finance, that those bright sparks trained up by the FSA to the highest level, the brainiest stars they have sourced and educated to regulate the world of finance, get poached by the very companies they have been trained to regulate as soon as they reach the end of their training.
I guess it would make for interesting reading, a breakdown of the numbers of FSA trainees who left for bigger salaries instead of staying with the regulators who educated them up to understand all there is to know about complex financial dealings.
Not such a great programme, I didn't think, no new news there.