Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The Gallery - Sunday

Sundays are sacrosanct, not for religious reasons, but because the weekend is my time with my family and my friends. 


It's a time when I wind down, work is slowly washing off me and I am back to my non-work self. 


This weeks Gallery is all about last Sunday 29th August 2010.


Three of our loveliest blogger's went to Bangladesh on Sunday  (Josie, Sian and Eva) for 
Save the Children


This Sunday I went to Stratford for family day out, just us and some close friends.


And it was a fantastic day, despite the rain and the chill wind, the children had a great time and we did something all together which I haven't done for years. We went for a power boat ride up the Avon. My daughters loved it. 


I am still without my DSLR but I got this great shot of my eldest with my phone. 




I see my eldest there and she looks so serene, so grown up. She is not quite eight but in this photo I see a glimpse of the woman she will be. 


And this is when I realise how lucky I am, how privileged. I have a beautiful family and a wonderful fortunate life. My children are growing up feeling secure and loved (I hope). 


So spare a thought, a moment of your day, and think about the children that don't have this. Go to the Save the Children website and make a donation, we can make a difference.

Monday, 23 August 2010

The Gallery - What have you done today to make yourself feel proud?

Yet another Gallery from the Challenging Ms Cain. A photo you are proud of - blimey this is tricky and I can't do just one. Obviously.

The first one is from the day we spent with Cosmicgirlie learning how to go from Auto to Manual on our DSLR's (Fantastic day!). This photo is when everything all kinda clicked into place, and came together.



Then there is this one from my holidays, where I just like the composition.




The next one is my second day trying manual out - really like this one.




And finally my (current) all time favourite is this one, because it's my girls, together and having a fab time.




I hope you all like them as much as I do as I really am proud of these.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Her Majesty's Government need's to get its act together



Like many other's when the child Tax Credits came into place we were overpaid. Just over £5000 back in 2007.

Obviously, the minute I realised we had received this overpayment I called Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and had the following conversation:


Me 'Hello, I seem to have an additional £5000.00 in my bank account from you, is that right?'
Them 'err, no'
Me 'Do you want it back? Shall I pay it back?'
Them 'err, no'
Me 'No really, I would like to give it you back'
Them 'No, it is harder to set up you paying it back than us just taking it out of your Tax Credits for the next couple of years'
Me 'Err OK then'

And off I went thinking that would be the end of it..Oh how wrong was I!

Fast forward to August 2010 - we get a 'Notice of Payment' and the first impression I got was that we had 5 weeks to pay just over £700.00 ( I find out later this is because my husband and I now earn too much - even though neither of us have had a pay rise in the last year and nothing has changed since we last sent our tax credits blurb in).

Reading further down it said I could do it in 12 month instalments - which would still be over £50.00 a month.

I was not happy, really really quite grumpy in fact (surprise, surprise).

I do not dispute that we owed them the money (even though it was totally there fault, they gave it us in error and refused to take it back), but I was gutted, after years of working firstly, to get rid of my debts and then to stay debt free, to suddenly have a debt hoisted upon us.

I thought OK, I will call them, sort this out.

Every day for 8 days I called their 0845 number.

Everyday the same thing happened, I went through the press this for that and that for this, got the posh lady saying I will put you through to an advisor. Then there would be a click and the posh lady would speak again and basically say - 'yeah, we're really busy we're not going to answer your call'. Click.

Oh My God!

You have issued us with a notice of payment and I can't speak to anyone.

This really REALLY annoys me.

So I go to their website, but as this is the Government, and they clearly only do things via the quill pen or telephonic-ally, I cannot email them.

This is infuriating. I am INFURIATED (and I don't write in capitals lightly)

When I do eventually get through, I speak to a really nice person who deals with my query and lets me take 24 months to pay the debt. He was very helpful and lovely.

When I speak to a Manager to put in my formal complaint - he tells me the advisor's have the authority to authorise up to 3 years worth of repayments. I ask him why that's not on the letter, as it would have alleviated some of my concerns? He says he doesn't know he has never seen the letter. I ask him why not, considering his advisor's are answering queries about it. He mumbles something about head office.

I make a couple of suggestions for improvements and he tells me he will let the complaints team know. I say to him, so you aren't dealing with this then. He says no, the complaints team take it.

I am at a loss - no ownership, assignment of blame and total disregard for the customers, I think I could have reduced their calls by 50% by simply making the Notice of Payment letter a little bit more customer friendly.

It seems I am not the only one who isn't happy with the HMRC.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-11030071
http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2010/apr/24/hmrc-tax-helpline-overwhelmed#

There is even a blog dedicated to this
http://hmrcisshite.blogspot.com/2010/04/hanging-on-telephone-very-very-busy.html

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The Gallery - A Memory

I am a bit late getting this weeks gallery entry up, I have been busy doing all sorts over the last few days so I am a little behind. Sorry.

I have lots of lovely memories I could share - the births of my daughters, the day I got married, but instead I will show you something else.


These lovely people - from left, Twitch, Rich, Dave, Julian, Lee, Jude and Me - are my first ever team from when I first became a Team Leader.

The year is 1998,  I have just split up from a horrible horrible man and was going through some dreadful personal stuff. These people supported me as much as I supported them. They taught me how to manage people nicely and how to lead a team; they were way more than colleagues, but my friends.

Around the time this photo was taken I had just started seeing my now husband, my social life was amazing, and other than the hideous ex - I was incredibly happy. I was working somewhere I loved to work, doing what I loved to do with people who cared as much about me as I cared about them. I think about those times often and they always bring a smile to my face.

And yes, we are all wearing the same T-Shirt - somewhere along the line we coined the name 'The Love Shift'  (my Team and I worked shifts, obviously)..it seems corny now, but I made them all these T-shirts with special  iron on print paper on my old computer (It took me ages!) and we went out to celebrate being a team and all wore them.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

A Day at Home


I have been off work for nearly two weeks, and I still have a few more days off into next week.

I think all this time off has meant that I have finally relaxed and managed to embrace my Domestic Mummy Goddess within (I knew she was in there somewhere!).

In fairness, I think it all hit me at once, and I am now completely knackered (how the stay at home Mum's do it I will never know).

Anyway today we started the day by making little stone ladybirds


I leave it with you to decide which is the 42 year old's, the 7 year old's and the 3 year old's.

Then we made Nigella's little cheesy stars

Except I haven't got any star shapes so we made little cheese diamonds, rounds and flower shapes. (I would recommend these, they are very yummy and the girls love making them).

and eating the left overs.

Then back to painting, glueing and sticking.


This is the final Gallery - we were particularly proud of our bouncy bugs


And then finally, fairy cakes, pink on the inside with red butter icing which we all had a go at putting on.

So, all in all, a pretty perfect day with my girls, the only issue was getting them to eat their tea before I would let them have a fairy cake - and now while I do this they are playing golf on the Wii with their Dad and bouncing on the sofa between shots.

Who cares about the rain?

Life is good.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Help

I need some advice, I have been trying to create a slide-show of my holiday pic's and this is the the end result.

Don't worry it's only 30 seconds long




Create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.


But, I have to admit I am a bit disappointed with the quality of the slide show. Does anyone know of any other free slideshow creators that show photo's with a better quality finish? 

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

The Gallery - Playtime

So here we are again at the Gallery..Week 22 already. 

This week was challenging, a combination of too much to choose from and which way to go with this....thinking cap on again!

Anyway, I am doing this one well in advance as I am off to stay in a caravan in Wales. Fingers crossed the scheduling thingy works as I have serious doubts about there being any kind of internet where I am going. 

So here goes... 

Playtime.

Hide and Seek.

The seaside

Bouncing
Flying Kites

Being together


Sunday, 1 August 2010

Why Tao has a lot to live up to...or the Legend of Lister

First of all, when I refer to Tao in this post I am referring to my cat. 

And not Tao as in Taoism the ancient Chinese philosophy.

This is Tao. He was named by the RSPCA.


Tao is the cat that followed Lister. 

How I came to have Lister is a story in itself so I will summarise: 
  • I shared a house with a boyfriend and a friend. 
  • My boyfriend and I split up so we needed a new flat mate. 
  • A long came new flatmate with her kitten, Lister. 
  • New flatmate got a new boyfriend
  • New boyfriend didn't like cats
  • I ended up with Lister
For my more nerdy readers, yes, I am aware that Lister is not the Cat from Red Dwarf. New flatmate was trying to impress new boyfriend with her new found nerdiness and completely messed up a) by having a cat and by b) naming him Lister

Poor Lister, not an auspicious start. 

This is Lister


You can tell by the décor that that this was some time ago. Lister arrived in our house on the 5th November 1993 - he was about 9 weeks old.

Lister and I moved out about a year later to my first home with a mortgage and everything. It was lovely in a place called Cherry Orchard in Shrewsbury.

Time for a quick summary.

  • About the same time
  • new flatmate and her boyfriend split up...
  • after a rather protracted and emotional period new flatmate's boyfriend became *ahem* my boyfriend.

Unlike new flatmate, I don't give up on pets just because the new man in my life wasn't that keen - so Lister stayed and won him over. Lister was a bit of a charmer.

New boyfriend wasn't that keen on living in Shropshire and wanted to live in the city. I was fairly disillusioned with the job prospects where I was, so before you knew it, I had brought my second house and was living in Birmingham. Lister came too. House number three.

Now it turns out boyfriend was a bit rubbish** I was heading towards thirty and having a bit of a think about my life.

I should have mentioned at the beginning of all this. When I originally met new flatmate's boyfriend I met new flatmate's boyfriend's, friend. There were a few months of new flatmate trying to set  me up with friend, this came to nothing as I was sworn off men at the time. So instead, friend became my friend as well - in fact as time went on we became best friends.



OK, long story short:

  • I catch boyfriend with girl on living room floor doing 'stuff'
  • This speeds up decision making process
  • boyfriend is asked to leave
  • My new best friend is lovely throughout and somewhere in the process got his umph.
Ex-boyfriend moves out. Lister and I live alone for about a year.... when I say alone there were actually three other cats there. This was not a good look for a newly single person.

Eventually new best friend becomes boyfriend - he is lovely. He doesn't like Lister either - ho hum.

Lister wins him over with his charm and general need for very little care and attention.

So I sell my house and move to best friend/boyfriends house (house number 4) whilst he sells his house and we buy a house together (house number 5).

Lister is my one constant throughout all of this. 

Suffice to say Lister was around when I got married, he was around when I had my first daughter and whilst we tried so hard for our second, in fact, he was around until 5 weeks after the birth of my second child. 

He was around to see me finally achieve everything I wanted for my family. I was (am) extremely happy.

Unfortunately, on the night before my 39th birthday Lister made it back to halfway through the cat flap.
His spine was broken and he couldn't use his back legs and he had dragged himself home. 

I took him with my baby girl (I was breast feeding) to the emergency vet. They gave him some pain killers and told me he probably wasn't in any real pain and they would see how he went through the night.

He didn't make it and died in his sleep on the 20th October 2006

I was devastated. I never really realised how much I loved him and how much of an integral member of the family he was. He had been with me for thirteen years, through thick and thin.

And that is why Tao (who we have had for nearly 4 years) has a lot to live up to..So far he is doing quite well.



**This is a MASSIVE understatement

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